School unions reach terms with districts on layoffs

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — With layoffs looming, Dearborn Public Schools officials and union negotiators last week made headway on saving jobs.

At the Board of Education meeting Nov. 22, trustees approved a new operating contract with district engineers that will prevent dozens of layoffs. The contract will shift more insurance costs to employees, institute a different payscale for new hires. It also will reduce pay across the board by 6.3 percent, a figure equal to the amount funding has fallen since last year.

The agreement struck is the same offer that district administrators have had on the table since it became clear early in the school year that state-aid education payments would be less then projected.

“They wanted to save jobs, so they accepted the deal,” DPS spokesman David Mustonen said.

The board also postponed a vote on layoffs of more than 100 noninstructional employees until Dec. 14. The cuts were supposed to take place Dec. 1, but were moved back because of logistical hurdles and continuing deliberations in the Legislature on new education funding sources.

Also last week, Dearborn Federation of School Employees negotiators agreed to preliminary terms on a deal with the district. But the agreement didn’t come without controversy.

According to a blog run by DFSE President Tim Kearney, prior to accepting the latest deal, union members voted 355 to 273 against a different measure. Despite the “no” vote, Kearney decided to return to the bargaining table, causing some members to balk.

“I am the president and I will live with my decision,” Kearney wrote. “But I will know that I did what I believe is best for DFSE and its members.”

Contracts are being mailed to federation members this week for review, and the deal will go to a vote at a special meeting Dec. 6.

Still in negotiations is the 1,100-member Dearorn Federation of Teachers. More than 90 teaching positions are targeted for layoffs, which would take effect at the start of the second semester. The union has been opposed to the administration’s concessions plan, frequently calling for administrative cuts instead, but Mustonen said talks haven’t yet reached an impasse.

“We are continuing to negotiate with the teachers, and hopefully we’ll be able to reach an agreement soon,” Mustonen said.

Even without an all-encompassing agreement, some teacher cuts could be allayed through a buyout program unveiled at the board meeting. Administration officials said the program would be offered to teachers with 10 or more years in the district and would pay them $25,000 each over five years.

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