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South Point schools, union still at impasse

SOUTH POINT — An informational meeting Tuesday has provided the non-teaching union at South Point schools with the current proposals of the school board as both sides work to resolve a contract dispute.

Right now the two sides remain at an impasse, but the Ohio Association of Public School Employees local president doesn’t anticipate the talks will end in a strike.

Both sides have been in talks since July 13 after the impasse was first declared on Aug. 10. The current contract expired June 30.

Recently a federal mediator was called in with a second meeting scheduled for Oct. 19.

“I don’t anticipate a strike,” Sandi Baise, union president of Local 480 said Wednesday. “I think before Oct. 19, the voices of reason will figure this all out.”

What the union sees as the sticking points are two, Baise said.

The union wants to retain the cook coordinator position at the district and Article 27 in the contract.

“They want to abolish that job,” Baise said. “(That position) takes care of lunch applications, makes sure the lunch machines are working properly and helps with commodity ordering. For a long time it was a supplemental job. One of the cooks did this. But there are more and more regulations from the government.”

Currently the employee who handles that responsibility has been doing the job for the past 12 years. She plans to retire in two more years, Baise said. The union offered to allow the job to be dissolved from attrition after that time.

“They wanted it right now,” Baise said.

Also the union wants to retain Article 27 of the contract that concerns the reclassification of jobs, Baise said.

“They don’t reclassify jobs without sitting down with us and discussing it,” she said. “It is not about money. We are among the lowest paid employees in the county. … We felt we were bending over backwards. … We are at a loss here. It would be different if we were asking for something in exchange.”

Representing the school board is Robert Cross of Cross Management Consulting Services out of Portsmouth. Cross is the school board’s labor consultant.

“We proposed all the changes in place that are in Senate Bill 5,” Cross said in an interview last week. “That is the law until it is repealed. We proposed the same changes that were in the law.”

The next step is for both sides to meet with mediator Mike Salmons from the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Services out of Columbus.

“They have to make us the last best offer,” Baise said. “Then we have to take that to the body for a vote. We will call a special union meeting for a contract vote and spell out what is in the contract.”

The union represents 78 bus drivers, cooks, aides, custodians and secretaries.