Williamsport Support Professionals Fight to Stop Subcontracting
The Williamsport Area Support Professionals Association (WAESP) is ready to go to court to stop the school district from subcontracting 40 bus drivers and aides. The association is also seeking to take its contract dispute to factfinding to settle the 18-month stalemate.
“Based on the evidence, it is clear that the school district was intent on subcontracting from the very beginning of bargaining in January 2008. The association made many concessions yet the school board thwarted our attempts for a compromise,” said WAESPA President Chip Harter. “Our only option now is to let the state and the judges get involved to stop the school district from selling the buses.”
The WAESPA has filed a charge of unfair labor practice with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, contending that the school district entered bargaining with the intent to subcontract the workers and did not bargain fairly with the union on the issue of subcontracting.
The WAESPA has also filed a civil action in Lycoming Court of Common Pleas against the school district seeking to stop the district from selling the school buses until the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board can make a decision on the unfair labor practice charge. The lawsuit claims that if the district sells the buses it will cause irreparable harm to the case and the workers.
In both cases, it is noted that on several occasions the school board’s negotiations team did not bargain in good faith. For example, at the first bargaining session in January 2008, the School District’s Attorney indicated that the district was considering “different ways of conducting business, including the possible outsourcing of work,” but there was no mention made of transportation services. At several other sessions, there was no discussion of subcontracting.
On May 3, 2008, the School District posted a request for proposals for bids for student transportation services in the local newspaper, and to this date, has not provided the association with a copy of the request for proposals. Subcontracting bidders were invited to a pre-bid meeting and the School District did not invite the association to attend the meeting
Good faith bargaining requires the employer to give prompt and accurate notice of its intention to subcontract work. Good faith requests that this be done at the bargaining table rather than a newspaper advertisement blindsiding the association and its members.
Throughout the bargaining process the association asked the School District to provide an estimate of how much the association needed to provide in concessions to save the jobs. The School District continually changed the target, making it impossible for the association to meet their demands.
The association made several proposals to meet and exceed any savings which could result from subcontracting, including changes in health care benefits, a wage freeze and other proposed saving. In May 2009, the Association presented the school board with a comprehensive proposal that would have saved the district over $700,000 over a five year period if it kept the work in house.
“No matter what we offered, the School District had a moving target. It was very frustrating. It became clear that they had no real interest in working with us to save these jobs, and that they were intent on firing the working and hiring a for-profit company to operate the transportation services,” union officials added.
At one point in the bargaining process, the school board also offered a proposal that would have provided the other support staff workers a 20 cent per hour increase higher than association had proposed if it agreed to subcontract the transportation services. The association turned down the offer, saying they were offended by the bribe.
“We are confident that state and county officials will look at the facts in this case and recognize that the school district did not meet its obligation to bargain fairly. They clearly violated the law,” union officials added. “The school district also did not consider the wishes of the public on this issue and they should be held accountable for these actions.”