North Kingstown School Committee member Bill Mudge said the school committee and superintendent have not negotiated in good faith with the custodians and its union and said at “Tuesday night’s meeting I will request a vote of the entire S/C to hold a special/open meeting to consider the unions June 26, 2012 proposal” in an email he sent out to state and town officials Monday evening.
“Unfortunately, I believe that there has been complete breakdown in the negotiation process, absence of School Committee leadership and that school committee erred, when it failed to consider the union’s proposal presented to Attorney Carroll on June 26,” he wrote in the email.
All school personnel have decided either to strike or not cross a picket line today, which was supposed to be the first day of school. They are protesting the huge wage cuts custodians took when their jobs were outsourced to a private company.
The school committee meets tonight.
Mudge has been critical of the way the school committee has handled the situation with the 26 custodians, whose jobs were outsourced to the private company GCA and took an average pay cut of about $13,000.
“What happened was most unethical,” he said in a phone interview earlier in the day. “I don’t know what the ultimate result would have been but we didn’t bargain in good faith and I am ashamed to be on the school committee.”
Mudge said the school committee received a decision from an arbitrator on June 26 that would save the district more than $1.3 million over two years. Later on the same day, the school committee agreed in executive session to proceed with privatizing school custodial services.
“We had all received a copy of arbitrators award and we had a meeting that night,” he said. “Nobody really looked at it and the superintendent said he disagreed with it.”
Mudge walked out of that meeting, he said, because he didn’t think the school committee followed open meetings rules when it went into executive session. He later filed a complaint with the Attorney General.
“My issue is not necessarily the result, it’s the process,” he said.
The school committee ultimately signed a contract with the out-of-state company rather than agree to the terms laid out by the arbitrator.
School Committee Chair Kim Page indicated in a reply email to Mudge that she does not think he has the votes to pass his motion at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Poll the committee all you want Bill,” she wrote in reply to his email. “If you get even 3 votes to attend your meeting, I would be shocked.”
Here’s Mudge’s entire email:
I am writing you because I am concerned about the subject notice posted on the NKSD website which states “While School Committee labor negotiations continue with the NK Educational Support Professionals, there remains a possibility that this union may strike on Tuesday and force the closure of school. Right now both sides continue to meet, and we are doing all we can to avert a work stoppage, but I am writing to you to give you some advance notice to make contingency plans for your children’s care should the NKESP go forward with a strike.”
First, as a member of the school committee, I (and I believe Mrs. Benson) am unaware of any continuing labor negotiations currently ongoing with the NK Educational Support Professionals. Regardless, to the best of my knowledge, on June 26, 2012 NKESP union officials did provide additional contract concessions to Mary Ann Carroll, attorney for the North Kingstown School Committee’s (NKSC), with the understanding that Attorney Carroll would present the new proposal to the NKSC that evening. It is also my understanding, Attorney Carroll attempted to present the unions proposal to the school committee, however it was rejected out of hand by committee members Welch, Page, Avanzato and Boscardin.
Second, I am also unaware of any ongoing negotiations with ESP union officials since March 13, 2012, when at that time a motion was made by Lynda Avanzato and seconded by John Boscardin to dissolve the Negotiations Sub-Committee and subsequently passed by a 4 to 1 vote. Mrs. Avanzato’s and Mr. Welch’s rationale to dissolve the committee was predicated on their assertion that when the committee moves into arbitration, it’s the entire committee that becomes involved. Thus, any interface or discussion with union officials by a School Committee Member or members and Superintendent Auger were not authorized and therefore not representative of the School Committee. Additionally, Attorney Carroll has not been authorized to represent the school committee in any matters concerning union negotiations.
Third, since the June 26, 2012 school committee meeting I have attempted on several occasions, to poll all NKSC members to hold a special or emergency school committee meeting to address the unions latest proposal; however, Chairperson Page has continually rejected each of my requests, in violation of our own school committee policy. Because of Chairperson Page’s in transient’s and unwillingness to bargain in good faith, on August 12, 2012, I filed several Open Meetings Act complaints with the Atty. Gen.’s office regarding the procedural conduct of the June 26 meeting and because the school committee voted, in essence, to rejected the unions new proposal in violation of the OMA.
Fourth, I would like to point out that on the evening of June 25, 2012, during executive session, and after only a 20 minute discussion of an arbitrator’s 25 page decision and award which had just been received and included $621,000 and $687,000 of budget savings in FY13 and FY14 respectively, the school committee voted to fire the janitorial staff. Furthermore the decision was predicated and accepted “without question” on Superintendent Auger’s assertion that the amount of savings cited by the arbitrator was incorrect and would not be realized, despite the fact that the arbitrator’s written statement that “most of the values were provided by the school committee as part of its evidence in this case.” I feel the S/C owed its valued long time employees the professional courtesy to at least validate the accuracy and/or disparity between the arbitrators and Dr. Auger’s calculated savings.
As outlined above, I have done everything possible since February, when I was first appointed to the now defunct negotiations committee, to ensure that School Committee and the ESP union were bargaining in good faith. Unfortunately, I believe that there has been complete breakdown in the negotiation process, absence of School Committee leadership and that school committee erred, when it failed to consider the union’s proposal presented to Attorney Carroll on June 26, 2012. As such, and in regard to the rumored statement there “will be a work stoppage” resulting in school closure, I respectfully request that all union employees continue to work their normal work day schedules until the S/C meets this Tuesday. In turn, I give you my word of honor that at the Tuesday night’s meeting I will request a vote of the entire S/C to hold a special/open meeting to consider the unions June 26, 2012 proposal. I believe this is a win, win proposal for both parties and the parents and children of our community, even if only for a day.