SAANYS successfully litigated a case for the Elmira Schools Supervisory and Administrative Council (ESSAC) against the City School District of Elmira for violating the terms of a May 2012 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).
During the 2011-12 budget process the district eliminated four ESSAC positions as part of budget cuts. With the assistance of SAANYS, ESSAC negotiated an anti-abolishment clause to protect the remaining 32 ESSAC members’ jobs. Specifically, SAANYS negotiated the following contractual provision: “In exchange for the association waiving the aforementioned contractual rights during the 2012-2013 school year the district agrees that no positions contained within the association shall be abolished or positions unfilled during the 2012-2013 school year only.”
In essence, ESSAC bargained away guaranteed compensation to maintain unit jobs. Specifically, ESSAC agreed to waive five-sixths of its members’ 3.9 percent salary increase for the 2012 – 13 school year, and limit the number of unused vacation days that members could cash in from seven days to one day that school year. These compensatory sacrifices were made based on the district’s promise that the 32 positions within ESSAC as of May 2012 would remain filled during the entire upcoming school year.
This MOA was a short term job security provision. However, shortly after reaching this agreement, the superintendent negotiated with an ESSAC member a separate employment contract for the member, a director, without the knowledge of ESSAC. The superintendent and the director reached an agreement in July 2012 that removed the director position from ESSAC, thereby reducing the number of positions below 32 and breaching the MOA. ESSAC was unaware of the secretly negotiated individual employment contract with the director until late November, when ESSAC leadership demanded the director pay his ESSAC dues. Upon learning that the director refused to pay union dues because he was no longer a member of ESSAC, ESSAC filed a grievance in December 2012. With the assistance of SAANYS, the case progressed to the arbitration stage before Arbitrator Nancy Eischen in the summer of 2014.
SAANYS prosecuted the grievance at the arbitration stage for ESSAC. Arbitrator Eischen held that the district violated the MOA by reducing the agreed upon number of positions below 32 when the district unilaterally negotiated an individual employment contract with an ESSAC member, which also constituted an improper practice of “self-dealing.” Arbitrator Eischen considered the breach and fashioned the remedy to make ESSAC members whole again. Arbitrator Eischen ordered the district to pay ESSAC members the 5/6 salary increase and the ability to cash in six more vacation days this year, as both items were forfeited as part of the original MOA. The remedy SAANYS was able to achieve for ESSAC shall result in in an $180,000 award for the ESSAC members.
In regard to anti-abolishment clauses, school districts are constantly facing budgetary constraints from living within the property tax cap and members may be involved in negotiating agreements to preserve the positions of its members. It is important to understand what elements should be included in anti-abolishment provisions and what rights you have if such clauses have been violated. When negotiating an anti-abolishment clause, such provision must be explicit, unambiguous, comprehensive, and of relative brief duration. Further, the agreement should be clear on how any disputes will be resolved. SAANYS recommends that such matters should be processed through the grievance procedure, which ultimately ends in binding arbitration. Having a detailed grievance procedure in a CBA is very important to protect the unit’s rights when a violation has occurred.
Please contact SAANYS if your unit is considering negotiating an anti-abolishment clause/lay-off clause; SAANYS attorneys who will be happy to provide you with guidance in this process.