CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KCRG-TV9) -- The Cedar Rapids Community School District approved a new contract with its teacher's union, and it includes most items teachers initially feared would be left out. It was the first contract the district negotiated under Iowa's new collective bargaining law.
That law only allows public employees to negotiate for wages. Everything else, from vacation time to health benefits is up to the district to include or not.
Cedar Rapids Schools originally wanted all of those optional items put in the employee handbook. The teachers union worried that took away bargaining power and let the district make changes any time.
Instead, the new contract only leaves out leaves of absence... moving that to a handbook policy. Superintendent Brad Buck told me the benefit of putting those optional items into a handbook is ensuring equal treatment. He pointed to snow days as an example.
He explains, "Some people get paid for a snow day, some people have to take emergency leave for a snow day, some people have to take a different type of leave on a snow day, some people are unpaid for a snow day. So depending on which of those employee groups you're in, a snow day impacts you differently, and so that creates confusion with our staff."
The contract is a 5 year agreement, but the issue of leaves of absence could be renegotiated next year.
Kim Miller with the Iowa State Education Association says the contract is one the can live with going forward. Teachers will get a 1% wage increase. He adds that the new law did take away some negotiations for the teacher’s union.
He says he prefers all of the permissives to stay in a contract, because he fears what could happen if things go into an employee handbook.
Miller says, "If it's in a handbook and well this time, (they could say) I'm not sure that we really want to follow the terms that we've agreed to and have lived with all those years because it's really not enforceable, it's in a handbook. The temptation will be there for the district to take shortcuts."
Miller says the district did work with them on the permissives issue. The district invited the union to the negotiation process to discuss which permissives were of the highest priority to retain.
The district says in a statement, “Once parties have discussed and determined which items will be transferred to the handbook, we would assemble collaborative work groups to review those themes which we collectively believe are urgent matters and which, if addressed, will improve the experience of all employees of the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Themes may include lane changes, evaluations, professional development, or leave of absences. Work groups will be open to all employees, including union members and non-union members, and include a variety of representatives whose professional roles would be appropriate to the themes.
"We also aim to address total compensation. It is our desire that all funds from the FY19 SSA general program increase will be distributed to our workforce across all of our various general fund employment groups.”