ROBBINSVILLE: Impasse declared with teachers’ union

By Joanne Degnan, Managing Editor
   A state mediator will be assigned to jump-start stalled contract talks between the district and the Robbinsville teachers union, whose contract expired June 30.
   The union recently filed a notice of impasse and an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Commission and PERC made its decision last week to have a mediator help bring both sides back to the table.
   No date has been set for the next round of talks, Schools Superintendent Steve Mayer said at the June 28 Board of Education meeting.
   School board member Carol Boyne, a member of the district’s negotiating team, said the last time the two sides met the union leaders abruptly walked out.
   ”We were in opening comments – we hadn’t even gotten to negotiations yet – when the representatives from the union walked out,” Ms. Boyne said.
   ”We stayed on site for about an hour after that … and at that point we went home,” Ms. Boyne said. “Following that, PERC did rule in favor of the impasse and so we will be going to mediation.”
   Mr. Mayer would not discuss what the district’s salary offer was to the union.
   The last Robbinsville teachers contract provided a 4.5-percent increase in salaries for every year of the three-year pact.
   A new state law essentially removes health benefits from the collective bargaining process for new public employee contracts. Teachers will have to contribute between 3 percent and 35 percent of their salaries toward their health benefits by the time the law is fully phased in over the next four years.
   When the law sunsets in four years, the new higher employee contribution levels will be the starting point for future negotiations.
   ”The four-year legislation will make some impact from a health benefits perspective and then it reverts back to collective bargaining,” Ms. Boyne said. “It will impact all new contracts and as you know our teachers contract has expired.”