Teacher union, district reach agreementTeachers union Education Minnesota Red Wing voted in favor of a two-year master agreement with Red Wing School District late last month, ending nearly a year of negotiations.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Teachers union Education Minnesota Red Wing voted in favor of a two-year master agreement with Red Wing School District late last month, ending nearly a year of negotiations. The School Board approved the agreement 6-0 at its meeting Tuesday evening.
The new master agreement outlines a 1 percent salary increase for the 2011-12 school year with a 1.9 percent increase for the 2012-13 school year. Included are reductions to the district’s contributions to health insurance and health reimbursement accounts, the elimination of the district’s employee-plus-one health insurance option, and the provisions for a district-sponsored health clinic.
But neither the district nor the union will get a very long break from the negotiating table.
The most recent agreement is for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school year. That means negotiations for the 2013-2015 master agreement will start again in March.
“I think that the tone of negotiations was acceptable,” Education Minnesota Red Wing President Kirby Hanson said. “I am disappointed in the length of time it took to come to an agreement.”
The previous agreement officially expired at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Because the district and the union hadn’t yet negotiated a new agreement, teachers worked under the 2009-11 master plan last school year.
Negotiations for the new agreement began last October. After months of talks, the district brought in a mediator in to try to settle differences earlier this summer. Then the district and union met once more last month, Hanson said.
“We had some loose ends to tie up,” he said.
The union members voted on the agreement Aug. 30.
“It was a majority vote,” Hanson said, declining to reveal the exact vote count or whether there was an overwhelming majority.
“I’d like to thank both sides for the hours and efforts that go into this,” Board member Dennis Porter said Tuesday evening.
“Talk about a class act,” Supt. Karsten Anderson said of the union negotiating committee.
Hanson said he’s hoping that the negotiation process will be a little more streamlined this time.
“We feel like we have made some significant changes through health insurance, including the school-sponsored clinic,” he said. “We won’t be looking at making major changes with health care. I’m hoping that that helps expedite the next negotiation process.”
The new agreement
The teachers will get their 1 percent salary increase for last school year and the 1.9 percent salary increase for the first couple months of this school year retroactively, district Finance Director Brad Johnson said. The payments will be made no later than the end of October.
“(Salary increases) occurred at the same time as the school district reducing the amount it pays toward health insurance,” Anderson said.
Johnson said with the 1 percent increase, the district will pay out about $101,500 more in salaries. However, by reducing district contributions to health insurance, the district was able to save about $350,000, he said.
“The district has been working to keep health insurance costs down for years,” Johnson said.
In addition to reduced health insurance contributions, the master agreement eliminated the $350/$700 and $1,500/$3,000 deductible options, as well as the employee-plus-one plan.
Effective Jan. 1, 2013, health insurance options will include single and family plans with $3,000/$6,000 and $5,000/$10,000 deductible options.
Board member Mike Christensen questioned the elimination of the employee-plus-one plan, calling it an odd move. Still, he said he was on board with the overall agreement.
“It’s a step that has to be made in order to find a solution that works for everybody,” he said.
The district will also sponsor a clinic for employees and their dependents covered by the district’s insurance. The board approved a motion allowing the negotiation of a contract with insurance provider Health Partners to set up the clinic.
Certain procedures and generic drugs will be provided at no cost to employees.
The clinic will be staffed and managed by Health Partners. The cost to the district is estimated at about $250,000 a year, but the clinic should reduce overall health care costs in the future, staff said.