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WEST MIDDLESEX Teachers union gives strike authorization

By Harold Gwin

Saturday, January 31, 2004

The teachers union has not set a specific strike date.
WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. -- Teachers in the West Middlesex Area School District have joined their counterparts in the Sharpsville Area School District in authorizing their negotiating team to call a strike.
Thomas Hubert, West Middlesex School board president, said the West Middlesex Education Association announced this week that its members had authorized a strike should the teacher bargaining team feel it is necessary.
Teachers in Sharpsville did the same thing a week ago.
Neither teachers union has set a specific strike date.
Hubert said that although the strike vote was taken, the West Middlesex teachers union hadn't officially notified the school board of that action as of late Tuesday.
West Middlesex teachers have been working under an extension of their old contract since the end of August. The district has 78 teachers.
Hubert said the two sides haven't met since Dec. 9. The school board has presented the teachers with a total of eight contract proposals, none of which the union deemed acceptable.
"That's news to me," said John Harper, chief negotiator for the teachers. "There's one on the table [from the board]. We've made two."
Hubert said talks are basically down to wages and health care.
The district also wants teachers to work an extra 30 minutes per day to bring them up to a full eight-hour day, he said, noting the teachers have indicated they would accept that request, provided the district expand family dental coverage to include the capping of teeth.
That inclusion would cost the district about $90,000 a year, he estimated.
"That's all news to me, too," Harper said, insisting that those issues are no longer on the table.
Hubert said the extra half-hour is needed to provide time for intervention with pupils who need help keeping up with their schoolwork.
The extra time would enable the district to add another class period at the high school level, he said.
The board has asked the teachers to present a contract proposal, Hubert said. Harper agreed that the next move is up to the teachers.
The 82 teachers in Sharpsville have been working without a contract since July 1, 2003, and have had more than 30 bargaining sessions with their school board.