On Friday, June 19th and again on Friday, June 26th, the MFT and MPS met for a sidebar bargaining session to discuss unresolved items of negotiation for the 2019-21 contract, Thus far, the discussions between the two teams have been somewhat contentious regarding salary and benefits, with the district maintaining their low 1% and 1% offer, and the MFT team holding fast at the 4% and 4% proposal. Both sidebar sessions have resulted in some productive movement on these issues.
The discussion on June 19th focused on brainstorming creative ways to provide members with a salary increase and also seek relief for our employees with family healthcare in terms of premium costs through the district’s “enhanced” plan, which adds an “employee+1” plan and slightly lowers the cost of the family plan. Because the enhanced plan increases costs for those on the single plan, the MFT has insisted on a salary increase that would mitigate the additional costs related to the premiums for those who choose single plans. This would be about $1000 per year based on the current plan premiums.
At the end of the session, several creative proposals had been discussed, and while the discussion was positive as well as productive, the two parties continue to be unable to reach agreement on salary and benefits. The meeting on the 19th ended with the MFT team agreeing to discuss the district’s latest offer and the MPS team agreeing to explore the possibility of cutting duty days from the calendar (specifically 1-2 days from the “back to school” days and 1-2 days at the end of the year after students have left), which they later noted was not an option the district would consider.
The District’s latest offer was a cash payment of $1000 for year 1 to be paid after the approval of the contract for all licensed employees under the Teacher Contract during the 2019-2020 school year. The district’s offer for Year 2 would see an increase of 1.5% to all cells on the salary schedule, with an additional $1000 added to step 1, $900 added to step 2, $800 added to step 3, $700 added to step 4, and $600 added to step 5. These increases in the early years will help with hiring and retention of newer educators, a goal the MFT team has been pushing since the start of negotiations.
The MFT and MPS teams met again on Friday, June 26th, having a very productive sidebar session at which agreements on a proposal increasing flexibility for bereavement leaves and the Restorative Practices Memorandum of Agreement were tentative reached. On MFT’s other outstanding language proposals, bargaining continues. The unresolved issues are over small, but significant, pieces of language.
The MFT team feels that we are very close to a tentative agreement on the 2019-2021 Teacher Contract. Despite this, the MPS team has petitioned for mediation, which would mean both teams would work with a state mediator from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS). While this is a legally acceptable solution to a long contract negotiation, the MFT has expressed our disappointment given the recent productive and solution-oriented sidebar sessions. The district has, however, agreed to continue meeting with the MFT while the petition is processed. We hope both teams find a way to reach a tentative agreement soon, so we can move forward and focus on additional issues, such as the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, that require the MFT and MPS’s attention.