PSEA World Cafés drive Central Bucks bargaining

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PSEA World Cafés drive Central Bucks bargaining

Voice: July 2017 

Bill Senavaitis’ participation in PSEA’s World Café process did more than help shape the Association’s mission, vision, values, and goals.

It provided the Central Bucks EA president with a model to prepare one of PSEA’s largest locals for contract negotiations.

PSEA held 18 World Cafés across the state in 2015-16 that included roundtables made up of 454 members from all aspects of the Association – EA, ESP, PSEA-Retired, Student PSEA, and HealthCare- PSEA. Their thoughts were cataloged and then reviewed by another group of members and staff, who converted them into proposed mission, vision, values, and goals that the PSEA Board of Directors approved a year ago.

During the World Café process, Senavaitis wanted to start preparing for bargaining well ahead of the expiration of the Central Bucks EA’s contract on June 30, 2018.

So, last September he essentially took PSEA’s statewide World Café model and applied it to an individual local.

“I wanted to hear from every facet of our membership,’’ said Senavaitis, an eighth-grade language arts teacher. “I wanted to make sure we had a school psychologist; I wanted to make sure we had a school counselor; I wanted nurses represented; I wanted people at the top end of the salary scale and those who are just starting out.’’

He ended up with a diverse 26-person team that split into groups that were assigned different aspects of bargaining – i.e., salary, health care, contract language. They held several roundtables at the Mideastern Region office in Montgomeryville, with participants rotating among different subject areas.

A bargaining survey was sent to members over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and more than 1,000 members responded. The roundtables then reconvened to discuss the data and ended up with a one-page list of bargaining priorities.

The Central Bucks EA was fully prepared for bargaining in February –16 months before the expiration of the current contract.

It turned out to be fortuitous timing. Around the same period, the Central Bucks administration approached the EA about starting early-bird discussions.

“It really worked out,’’ Senavaitis said. “I would have felt terrible if they had approached us about an early bird and I would have had to say, ‘OK, but hang on until I can get a bargaining team together.’’’

Several small, informal discussions have been held involving Senavaitis, a PSEA UniServ, and the district’s human resources director and solicitor.

The 26-member team has been broken into four committees, and Senavaitis said the chairs of each will make up the bargaining team when the two sides get to the table.

When they do, another part of the team’s approach, similar to the World Café process, will be the local’s values.