Their own hurricane
Call it the memo that ignited a storm. Pasco County's school employees threatened today to file an unfair labor practice charge against superintendent Heather Fiorentino over a memo she issued on the last day of school. In it, Fiorentino tells staffers to turn in emergency contact phone numbers and "be available to report to work at their assigned shelters or related duty locations if contacted." Meaning, during summer break. What? Be on call while on vacation? The United School Employees of Pasco unleashed the naysayers even before the memo went out, and it continued its opposition Tuesday.
"We still believe this to be a unilateral change in the working conditions of our employees," USEP chief negotiator Jim Ciadella told the School Board. He added that the union is readying a complaint to send to the state Public Employees Relations Commission if Fiorentino doesn't retract the memo, in writing, by Friday. "We really don't want to do that and we hope to not have to. But we are preparing that," Ciadella said.
Fiorentino explained that she simply wanted to make employees aware of the district's responsibilities in the event of an emergency. "Since I've been superintendent, every year I send out a survey. ... One of the areas I would say everyone has asked me to improve upon is communication," she said. "I have worked very hard on communicating better." The memo, which she stood by, is an example of that effort and nothing more. "I don't think I changed any labor negotiations," Fiorentino said.
Still, the board set aside the issue as one for negotiations as the two sides reopen employment contracts later this month. Vice chairwoman Kathryn Starkey expected cooler heads to prevail: "I think there's a little bit of histrionics going on. I don't think anything has changed and I think we can work it out."