Burlington Schools Negotiations Update

Hi neighbors,

The attached article was co-authored by Paul Hale and Terry Buehner and sent to the North Avenue News and VT Times for publication this month. It is a good explanation of the negotiating process between the School Board and the Burlington Education Association, the negotiating unit for the Burlington school teachers.

If anyone has any questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact me or Amy Werbel (awerbel@bsdvt.org).

Fred Lane
12 Catherine Street
Aug 30, 2006
Paul Hale, School Board Chair
Terry Buehner, BEA President

The Burlington School District does not yet have a new teachers’ contract.

As of late August, the Burlington School Board and the Burlington Education Association were awaiting a report from a fact-finder who was involved in helping the two sides reach agreement. Once that fact finder’s report arrives, we are on a 30 day timeline before any action other than settlement can occur.

The two sides have been working to reach agreement on a new contract since November 2005. Here is an overview of the timeline since then:

The current four-year agreement expired on August 31, 2006.

The Board and BEA negotiated directly with each other until February 2006, when impasse was declared. Impasse is a term used to signify that agreement has not been reached despite good faith bargaining by both parties.

In March 2006, the parties met with a skilled mediator who assisted the parties to work toward agreement. This effort also failed to produce a mutually acceptable agreement.

Under the laws of Vermont, the next required step in the process was to submit the items in dispute to a neutral fact-finder. This submission was completed on July 20, 2006. It is the responsibility of the fact-finder to consider the positions of the parties and make recommendations for settlement of the dispute based upon the evidence and testimony submitted. The evidence submitted is judged against two primary criteria: comparability to other appropriate school districts/employers, and the financial ability of the school district to meet the demands of the union. The recommendations of the fact-finder are advisory only.

Although we expected the fact-finder’s report and recommendations by August 20th it has not arrived as of August 30, 2006. Once it is received, the parties hold it privately for 10 days. Meetings will be scheduled during this period and will most likely involve further assistance from a skilled mediator. The fact-finder’s report is made public if agreement is not reached within the 10-day period.

Once the report is made public, there is a 20-day ‘cooling off period.’ Negotiations typically continue during this period if agreement has not been reached. At the end of this 20-day period (30 days from receipt of the fact-finding report) ) the following are possible: a settled contract; a Board-imposed final offer effecting teacher salaries, benefits and working conditions; a strike by the union, or teachers can continue to work as the Board and BEA continue to negotiate a new contract.

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