The Pinellas County school district reached a tentative agreement Wednesday with its public services union to provide 5 percent across-the-board raises for employees in transportation, food services, maintenance and plant operations.
About 2,500 employees would receive pay raises, which would be retroactive to July 1. The raise is the largest the Florida Public Services Union/SEIU has seen in more than 10 years.
Rick Brant, a business agent for the union, said he was "pleased to get 5 percent in this economy." He said about 1,200 of the employees made $9.39 an hour. With the raise, they'll receive $9.86 an hour. Many of those workers are part-time, he said.
Brant called the district's negotiating team "conscientious" and credited the School Board and the district for being transparent.
"We've got a good board, and they understood that people are struggling," he said.
The agreement still must be approved by both the School Board and the union membership. Employees in the union last year received, on average, a 1.5 percent raise. With other cost increases, such as premium hikes for health insurance, many people were taking home the same amount as in 2007, Brant said
Superintendent Mike Grego said he was thrilled with the agreement.
"Those are people who have been with us through some really difficult recession years, and we're still in it," he said, adding that he believes the raises will help curb turnover in some departments.
Brant said the transportation department has experienced "tremendous turnover." Of 32 people who attended a recent training class, five quit by the eighth day of school, he said.
Employees will see an average increase of 6.4 percent in their health insurance premiums. That number could vary among individual employees, depending on their coverage plans. "But people will still see more money in their paycheck," Brant said.
The district still is negotiating with other employee groups, including the teachers union. Grego said he hopes to bring agreements from all the unions to the School Board in September.
Times Staff Writer Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly.