Mat-Su union considers strike vote after board offers ‘last best offer’

The union said that a strike vote could be a possibility.
The union said that a strike vote could be a possibility.(ktuu)
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 6:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Mat-Su Education Association said a strike vote may be their only option left after the Mat-Su School Board offered what they called their “last, best offer.”

Dianne K. Shibe, the president of the union, said that they have been bargaining for over 18 months.

“We feel that they should stay at the table and keep negotiating with us because we were fairly close,” Shibe said. “And we want to avoid any sort of work action, any kind of a strike. However, our membership has voiced their opinion and they are willing to do so.”

Shibe said that the union has since sent back another proposal.

According to a press release, the Mat-Su Borough School Board provided their last offer to the union.

“The Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani describes the Board’s offer as a fair middle ground that provides teachers financial stability in an uncertain time,” the release on Aug. 26 read.

In an op-ed written by the superintendent, it stated that the last offer is fair because of a variety of options. This included a $1,500 lump sum payment, a salary adjustment of 1.75% each year for three years to keep up with inflation, an increase in the district’s contribution toward health insurance and more.

“Under the Board’s offer, last year’s beginning teacher will receive an increase of $3,600 this school year AND receive a $1,500 lump sum payment,” Trani wrote in the op-ed. “I believe this is fair.”

“We really feel that the board needs to value what teachers have been doing,” Shibe said. “And to stop putting them through the chaos and making them jump through all these hoops of this negotiation. There’s no reason for it.”

Shibe said the major differences between the board’s final proposal and their response proposal include adjustments related to health benefits, compensation and for a bonus to move onto the pay scale.

Information on the board’s proposal can be found here.

Wednesday, the school district responded to the statement to Alaska’s News Source. MSBSD’s public information officer Jillian Morrissey called the school board’s offer “fair” and explained their continued efforts to pay educators competitive salaries and benefits.

“When the Board’s last best offer is compared to Anchorage’s share of health plan costs, Mat-Su teachers come out ahead. In FY21, Anchorage’s contribution remains at $1,695 per month but with an additional $50/month subsidy increases that to $1,745 per member per month, then Anchorage teachers pay 100% of the remaining premium,” Morrissey wrote. “In all three years of Mat-Su’s proposal, the District will propose to pay $1,860 per member per month with premium increases above that amount being shared equally. Anchorage’s $50 subsidy disappears next year, leaving its contribution at only $1,695 per member per month, as compared with Mat-Su’s offer of $1,860 with an equal share of all health insurance increases above that starting in the current year.”

Morrissey also said MSEA ignored “stark differences” in the latest salary comparisons, saying Anchorage benefits from being the state’s economic hub, is larger with a more diversified tax base, therefore being able to fund public education well. She said Mat-Su’s taxable values are mostly residential property, putting education funding on the backs of homeowners.

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