MCEA grievance denied

Friday, November 20, 2009

The teachers' grievance about their insurance premium payments was denied by the School Board at their November meeting this week.

Wanda Odum, speaking for the Marshall County Education Association, asked the board to honor the contract that was ratified by both parties in August.

"Our association asserts that the contract is legal and binding," Odum said, adding that, as of the teachers' October checks, the agreed amount of insurance money had not been paid.

The school board's attorney, Chuck Cagle, advised the board that under Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-612 "Any items negotiated...which require funding shall not be considered binding until such time as the body approved to appropriate the funds has approved such appropriation."

This is the same law that former director of schools Stan Curtis quoted in a Sept. 30 letter to Colin Beatty, MCEA president, when the grievance was denied for the first time

"You negotiated in good faith," Cagle said. "It just wasn't funded."

Budget director Janet Wiles explained that the contract should have specified three months at the old rate (the August, September and October paychecks) and seven months at the new.

"We should have negotiated a rate for the first three pay periods," Wiles said. "The budget was based on an increase for the last seven.

"It was an error," she admitted. "It came to our attention before the County Commission passed the budget. That's why we tried to go back to the table, but the MCEA would not come back to the table when we asked them."

"What's our next step?" asked board member Curt Denton.

"The grievance is not proper," Cagle said. "They have not gone back to the table since the County Commission finalized its budget. The statute requires that they return to the table."

Miley Durham, the Tennessee Education Association District 15 UniServ representative, said, "It's our contention that the money is there. We assert that the County Commission did fund the budget with the total amount of dollars that the board requested."

"You have a contract but you don't have funding," argued Cagle. "The law says in that case you must return to the table, and negotiate within the budget."

"We had no intention to do anything but the right thing," said board member Craig Michael. "It's disturbing to have this become a wedge between us - the Board has put forward a good effort to support our educators."

"How should we do it in the future?" asked chairman Mike Keny.

"Negotiate in good faith, and put it in your budget," advised Cagle.

Michael made the motion to deny the grievance based on the attorney's advice, and it was carried unanimously.

No plans to return to the table were announced Tuesday night.