Friday, August 10, 2012

Teachers’ grievance for step increase denied as untimely

The Okaloosa (Florida) County Education Association and the School Board of Okaloosa County were parties to a collective bargaining agreement that provided either party could reopen negotiations annually on salary issues. On August 9, 2011 the parties began negotiations on proposed amendments to their 2009-2012 agreement. The parties met for four sessions and were unable to reach agreement. Thereafter the School District declared an impasse and the impasse procedures under the Florida statutes were implemented.

On September 8, 2011 the Association filed a grievance asserting a contract violation based on teachers not receiving step pay increases in their August 31, 2011 paychecks, and requesting payment of back step increases retroactive to July 1, 2011.  The School Board claimed that the grievance was untimely since the cba provided “a grievance may be deemed to have been waived unless presented to the immediate supervisor in Step 1 within fifteen (15) working days after the event or events on which the grievance is based are known or should reasonably have been known …” It maintained that the Union was informed at the August 9th session that the School Board intended to freeze salaries. It also noted that the grievance, on its face, claimed that the violation began on July 1st.

The Association argued that past practice was for a step increase to be paid on various dates from the July to December paycheck and at times, before negotiations had concluded. It further noted that the parties had the right to waive or extend time limits and had done so in the past.
Arbitrator Barney Spurlock rejected the grievance, finding it had been untimely filed. He observed:
The control of the timing of the submission of this grievance was entirely within the control of the Association. It was the Association’s decision to grieve the absence of a step increase to teachers in 2011. The Association represents teachers who are paid on a twelve-month basis as well as those paid on a ten-month basis. If the lack of payment as a yet non-agreed upon step increase is a basis for the institution of a grievance, the triggering event occurred on July 31,2011.
The Association selected July 1, 2011 as the starting point of the District’s financial liability should the grievance be sustained; it is therefore the Association’s responsibility to conform their grievance to the provisions required by Article IV, 15 working days from July 31, 2011.
Arbitrator Spurlock further concluded that there was no evidence that the time period had been extended, and that arguments on other issues raised were moot.

The Northwest Florida Daily news reports on the case Teachers' union files second grievance over pay and  the award is available here.

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