Pasco school employees union declares impasse in contract negotiations

Published Nov. 10, 2016

After two months away, representatives from the Pasco County school district and the school employees association returned to the table Wednesday to renew contract talks.

The session lasted an hour, and ended with the United School Employees of Pasco declaring that bargaining had reached an impasse.

"It's our belief that the district is not willing to further engage with the union in negotiations," president Kenny Blankenship said after a brief caucus.

USEP leaders made that announcement after the district negotiation team could not respond to the union's updated financial proposal, in which it reduced its raise request from 4 percent to 3.75 percent, across the board.

The district has offered an average wage and benefit increase of 3.5 percent, with 2.65 percent for raises.

"We hope it will be recognized that after a number of conversations about budgets ... 3.75 percent is truly bargaining and it is a feasible number to get to," USEP negotiator Val Smith said during talks.

District negotiator Tom Neesham told the union team that being at the table is important to approach a settlement. He told them he would take the union proposals to the superintendent's staff for review, but he could not answer immediately. He did, however, note that the sides are not yet close on pay.

"3.75 percent, at this point, the district is not able to do," Neesham said.

USEP negotiator Jim Ciadella accused the district of having made its decision, having made its first and apparently only proposal.

"We came to the table with the idea that we would negotiate," he said. "You came just to listen."

Neesham stressed the district is committed to negotiating, but it did not bring a new proposal of its own. The district has to look at the entire financial picture, he said. "You have to do what you have to do."

The USEP last declared impasse in 2010. It calls for a hearing officer to help resolve the contract terms. The two sides still may meet if they wish.