School system officials declined to comment in detail on the progress of negotiations or the issues holding up the process.
“If you ask them, they’ll say because they haven’t been able to get us to negotiate with them, and if you ask us, we’ll say we haven’t been able to get them to negotiate with us,” Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said.
Negotiations began months before the last contract expired on June 30, 2011. Tindall-Gibson declined to say how many meetings had been held, but said the process had not reached mediation or arbitration stages. Tindall-Gibson said he did not know when a new contract might be approved.
Jim Healy, the union’s president and head custodian at Andrew Avenue Elementary School, did not return a message Wednesday seeking comment.
Negotiations are supposed to begin again in July, said Robert Butler, assistant business manager.
While the renewed contract is in negotiations, employees are being paid the same wages as they were when the contract expired, Butler said. If a renewed contract is approved with wage increases, those will be paid retroactively, Butler said.
Butler said the school system has been setting aside money to pay for retroactive raises based on what administrators assume the wage increase will be. He declined to say what that percentage increase is.
“My understanding is that there’s an agreement in principle,” Butler said. “Since we’re still in negotiations and the contract hasn’t been approved, we don’t want to announce what our negotiating strategy is and has been.”
The union, Local 1303-50 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, represents cafeteria, custodial, maintenance, secretarial and paraprofessional school district workers.
Under the most recent contract, cafeteria workers started at $14.65 per hour, custodians at $19.43 per hour, secretaries at $16.59 per hour, paraprofessionals at $11.75 per hour and transportation paraprofessionals at $12.17 per hour.
They received a 3 percent raise in 2008, then took a wage freeze, then received a 1.5 percent increase for the last six months of 2010 and another 1.5 percent increase for the first six months of 2011.
Teachers this year received a 1.76 percent salary increase under a contract approved in December 2011. They will receive a 1.96 percent raise next year and a 2.38 percent raise the year after that.