Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Furloughs on the table for Pasco County school employees

LAND O'LAKES — A faceoff over furloughs is brewing for Pasco County's largest employer.

Pasco School Board members want to use mandatory unpaid leave to save as much as $8 million in spending, as they seek to slash general operations by $54 million or so. And they'd like to get the United School Employees of Pasco to agree to such a move soon.

That would allow the board to spread the pay reduction across the maximum number of paydays while also allowing them to avoid other cuts. Officials have proposed four furlough days for 12-month employees, and three furlough days for everyone else.

"I would hope certainly that after our very public process and meetings with all the stakeholders and everybody involved that they would understand the need for those," board vice chairman Allen Altman said. "Our hope and desire is that we would work together to make it happen."

But while USEP president Lynne Webb acknowledges that furloughs must be one of the first issues up for consideration, she has yet to commit to the concept. The union still needs more financial information, Webb said, along with some assurances that if the district takes more money out than it ultimately needs, the employees will get reimbursed.

"One way or the other, within two weeks we need to resolve this issue," Webb said before negotiations Wednesday, where both sides dealt with more mundane issues such as employee dress code and indoor air quality. The discussion on furloughs is expected in the weeks ahead.

If the USEP does not support furloughs, Altman said, the board would have to consider other spending cuts. These could include additional layoffs. It also might look at increased premiums for insurance benefits.

"Or," he added, "the board might impose" — implementing the furloughs by fiat.

The school district has asked its labor lawyers to investigate whether it may unilaterally put employees on unpaid leave. They are looking closely at a recent Public Employees Relations Commission order that stated the Martin County Commission could impose furloughs without collective bargaining.

Pasco school employees have different contractual terms than the Martin County workers, district employee relations director Kevin Shibley noted. So the order might not directly apply.

But board attorney Dennis Alfonso suggested that those details might not impact the overall implications.

"It's not whether or not they can be imposed," Alfonso said. "What is going to be negotiated is the details of how it is going to be imposed."

Webb said she has reviewed the order and she did not see how it could apply to the school district employees. She noted that the district's contract specifies a number of days to be worked, which might not jibe with what happened in Martin County.

Even though district officials are looking at imposing furloughs conceptually, Shibley said, it would be a last resort only.

"We're still hopeful we may be able to come to an agreement … without having to invoke the management right clause," he said.

Changing evaluations

Once the furlough issue is settled, both Shibley and Webb expected teacher employment matters related to Senate Bill 736 to take center stage. The bill, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in the spring, changes the way teachers are hired, contracted, certified and paid.

"A lot of our contract language has been identified as unacceptable to the Legislature," Shibley said. "There's going to have to be a lot of language changes."

Webb was not keen on simply accepting the new law as the way things will be for teachers.

"I think there are going to be challenges to this law," she said. "I am not going to hurry into massive negotiated changes for an evaluation system that, we all know in our heart, stinks."

The untested evaluation system for performance pay is but one concern for USEP. Webb also had concerns about the state's move away from seniority to determine job status, arguing that the lawmakers simply had interfered in collective bargaining rights that are protected in the Florida constitution.

"I am not confident that this law will stand the legal test," she said. "At this point, my approach is 'take it slow.' "

Ron Meyer, a lawyer for the Florida Education Association, said the state teachers union is assessing its options for a legal challenge to SB 736 as law. He also suggested that a separate lawsuit could be waged if a district attempts to impose the law's provisions onto an existing contract.

Representatives for the teachers side of the USEP are scheduled to bargain with the district today. The next talks are slated to take place in two weeks.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

>>fast facts

The skinny on 'skinny' periods

The four Pasco County high schools that used expanded homeroom "skinny" periods last year to give students more instruction no longer can include those periods in their schedules, unless their teachers agree.

Fivay, Wesley Chapel, Ridgewood and Hudson high leaders have until Aug. 31 to convince at least two-thirds of their faculty members of the value of the skinny periods if they hope to reinstitute the practice, which they had used for such things as teaching study skills. Until they get a positive vote, the schools must revert to their regular schedules, in which they do not require additional work of their teachers.

That's the settlement that the United School Employees of Pasco and the district administration reached for an unfair labor practices complaint against the "skinny" periods, which the USEP contended were imposed unilaterally and against the teachers' contract.

"The schools that did it already have to go and do this process" of seeking support from staff, USEP president Lynne Webb said. "They cannot start the school year that way."

The administration plans to explain the details of the resolution to principals later this month.

"I'm satisfied that the resolution we agreed to was probably the best we were going to get," employee relations director Kevin Shibley said.

Furloughs on the table for Pasco County school employees 07/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed in Plant City when car runs red light, FHP says

    Blogs

    Two Mulberry teens are dead and another is critically injured after their car collided with another vehicle in a Plant City intersection Thursday afternoon.

  2. GOP Montana win may be blip in Democrats' anti-Trump hopes

    Blogs

    BOZEMAN, Mont. — A Montana Republican businessman won the state's U.S. House seat after being charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election, a victory that may temper Democrats' hopes for a massive anti-Trump wave next year.

    Republican Greg Gianforte speaks to supporters after being declared the winner at a election night party for Montana's special House election against Democrat Rob Quist at the Hilton Garden Inn on Thursday in Bozeman, Montana.
  3. More than half of Senate signs onto bill to end Cuba travel restrictions

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - Fifty-five members of the Senate, including Bill Nelson, have endorsed legislation to fully lift restrictions on travel to Cuba.

  4. Militants attack Christians in Egypt, killing at least 28

    Blogs

    CAIRO — Masked militants riding in three SUVs opened fire Friday on a bus packed with Coptic Christians, including children, south of the Egyptian capital, killing at least 28 people and wounding 22, the Interior Ministry said.

  5. District finals won't count for Pasco County students

    Blogs

    Scores from the district finals Pasco County students took in recent weeks will not count toward their semester grades or grade-point averages, superintendent Kurt Browning said Friday.