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Classified workers ratify school contract

Members of the Medford School District's classified employees union voted Wednesday night to ratify a new contract giving most employees up to an 8 percent raise and paying a fixed amount toward each employee's medical care.

The Medford School Board voted to ratify the contract Thursday morning.

"We now look forward to moving on with the school year and our jobs as we continue to do what we can every day to make sure (students) are safe, educated and happy at school," Brian Rowlett, Medford chapter president of the Oregon Schools Education Association, said in an email to the Mail Tribune.

Once implemented, the contract will be retroactive to July of this year.

"We're really pleased to have this resolved before winter break," said district Superintendent Phil Long.

The district and the union reached a tentative agreement earlier this month.

District and union representatives have been bargaining over the agreement since April, including two 16-hour mediation sessions after the parties came to an impasse in August.

The new agreement gives most classified employees raises up to 8 percent over the next two years. Newer employees also will continue to receive 2.5 percent step increases on top of the base pay increase, while more experienced employees will receive raises of varying amounts up to 8 percent.

"Even with the agreement we reached, there will still be some of our members who will not experience a wage increase, but will still be paying toward their insurance and retirement," Rowlett said, referring to about 35 classified employees out of 477.

That raise is intended to offset additional costs employees will take on for retirement and health insurance. The district will now pay a fixed amount for health insurance costs — $5,400 per year for single employees working six to eight hours a day and up to $17,400 annually for full family coverage. Employees will cover remaining costs.

Employees who work four to six hours a day will receive a subsidy to cover 50 to 75 percent of medical costs. Employees working less than four hours do not qualify for health benefits.

Additionally, medical coverage will be eliminated for retiring employees who don't yet qualify for Medicare. Instead, they will receive a payment of $1,500 per year of service through June 30, 2012, which they can use to purchase health care coverage.

Long has said the district decided to go with fixed amounts rather than full premium coverage to stabilize the budgeting process.

Employees also will contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their Public Employee Retirement System accounts.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.