CLARKS SUMMIT — The classrooms in the six schools of the Abington Heights School District were empty Tuesday after members of the school board and teachers’ union were unable to come to terms on a new teachers’ contract.
According to Abington Heights Education Association (AHEA) President Tim Moher, the teachers’ strike will go on, day by day, until further notice.
“We remain willing to sit down any time if the district has a proposal,” Moher said.
The previous teachers’ contract expired Aug. 31.
There are three negotiations sessions planned between the two sides: Thursday, Sept. 21; Monday, Oct. 2; and Monday, Oct. 23.
The AHEA sent a notice to Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Michael Mahon June 6 of its plan to strike if an agreement wasn’t reached before 12:01 a.m. Sept. 12.
“We feel we made a good faith effort to avert the strike,” Moher said.
The AHEA represents and negotiates on behalf of the teachers, counselors and school nurses of the Abington Heights School District.
According to a statement on the Abington Heights School District’s website, the last student day will be June 15, excluding snow days, should the union strike for the maximum length allowed by law. If the union strikes for a second time, also allowed by law, the last student day could be as late as June 30.
“We hope people come together and come to an agreement, but the issues are very challenging,” Mahon said. “It’s a matter of sticking with negotiations because a strike creates a hardship for students and the community.”
The AHEA proposed a one-year contract with a 2.5 percent salary increase and no changes to its benefits package during a negotiations session Sept. 7.
The school district countered with a one-year contract with a 2 percent salary increase and the request for union members to pay $80 per month toward their health care benefits.
According to Mahon, members of the Abington Heights administration have been contributing $80 toward their health care plan for several years.
“The union wanted higher raises without additional contributions toward their health care plan and that’s not something we see as acceptable,” Mahon said.
Moher stated that, if the union accepted the district’s latest proposal, the result would be a net loss for all its members.
The teachers’ union originally proposed a five-year contract with a 3.85 percent salary increase and no change to health care benefits.
The district originally proposed a three-year contract that would include a 1 percent salary increase, only for individuals in the 15th step of the cycle. The offer also called for a 10 percent employee contribution toward health care benefits.
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