It's teacher hunting season!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bennington VT teachers strike, first in SW Vt. in Decades

The teachers' strike in Bennington, Vermont is continuing.
Talks have suspended for the weekend:

From Neal R. Goswami, "Strike talks break for weekend," yesterday in the Bennington Banner:
BENNINGTON -- Teachers will continue their strike for a fourth school day on Monday, after union and board negotiators mutually agreed to break for the weekend Friday afternoon without a settlement.

Both sides said progress was made Friday and a framework appears to be in place to move closer to a settlement on Monday. There is "nothing imminent" to be signed, though, according to Darren Allen, spokesman for the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association.

The school boards -- Bennington, North Bennington, Shaftsbury, Pownal and Mount Anthony in the SVSU, and the Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District -- presented a contract offer to the union around 10 p.m. Thursday. The union reviewed it overnight and met face-to-face with board negotiators Friday for the first time since the strike began on Wednesday.

Allen said negotiators for the Southwest Vermont Education Association, which represents about 270 teachers, were comfortable with Friday’s progress and agreed to break for the weekend.

"Sometimes when you’re at the table for that long it really is productive to take a break," Allen said.
. . . .
Teachers are now in their second year without a negotiated contract and working under conditions set by the boards in June -- one day after the previous school year ended. The union is seeking a successor agreement to replace the imposed conditions.

The union voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 12 -- 209 to 12 -- to authorize a strike if a deal with the boards was not reached by earlier this week.

Steven Stitzel, an attorney representing the boards, said he plans to meet with a union representative Monday to develop a "very clear list" of issues that must still be addressed.

Meanwhile, all of the boards will meet together Monday afternoon to discuss progress. Much of the meeting is likely to take place in executive session, according to officials.

Teachers are continuing to walk picket lines at their respective schools. On Friday, teachers also picketed in front of the SVSU central office where negotiations were taking place.

Union members are "really staying organized and together," according to one teacher. But there is growing "frustration" that union officials have not shared more specific details of proposals.

"They don’t understand the details of the proposals," the teacher said. "They’re staying organized but they wish they really knew what was going on with the proposals."

Despite increasing optimism that a deal will be reached next week, both sides acknowledged Friday that a significant amount of work remains.

The two sides have disagreed on three main issues -- the amount of health care premiums the districts will pay, how much of the school day is under the control of administrators, and salaries.

Those issues remain a central part of negotiations, according to both sides.
. . . .

Read the full article at the Bennington Banner.

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