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Union wants ‘loyalty shares’ pay for Pasco teachers

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LAND O’ LAKES — Loyalty during uncertain economic times could pay off for Pasco County teachers under a union proposal for how raises should be structured in contracts for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Instead of across-the-board raises where everyone receives the same amount, contract negotiators for United School Employees of Pasco have proposed a tiered pay increase in which teachers are awarded “loyalty shares” worth $401.16, depending on their years of service.

Teachers hired before Jan. 8, 2009, would be eligible for six shares, which would give them a raise of $2,406.96. For those hired after that date, the amount drops one share each year.

Also, some of the district’s longest-serving teachers who are beyond the 26th step on the district’s pay schedule would receive one additional share, giving them a total of seven, or $2,808.12.

The union says the idea is to reward teachers for their sacrifice during the economic downturn in which school budgets have faced drastic cuts and employees have gone year after year without raises.

The union reports that it expects to make a similar loyalty-shares proposal for other school employees, such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians. They are covered by a separate contract.

Teachers and other Pasco school employees haven’t received a raise since 2007, but at Gov. Rick Scott’s urging the state Legislature allocated money for teacher raises throughout the state this year. Pasco’s share of the money designated for teacher raises was about $11.7 million.

In addition, the school board budgeted funds to provide other district employees raises as well. Who will get how much is open to contract negotiations, though.

In the 2012-13, the school district employed about 9,600 people, roughly 5,200 of whom were teachers.

The loyalty-shares proposal is far from a done deal. Contract negotiations are continuing and the district hasn’t responded to the proposal. Even once negotiations are complete, the school board needs to approve and employees need to ratify any agreement.

Also, before proceeding much further, the union wants to hear what its building representatives have to say about across-the-board raises versus differentiated raises when they gather Saturday for their annual back-to-school “Rep Rally”.

“We are going to lay this out to them in great detail,” said Lynne Webb, president of the union.

In Tallahassee, it was suggested teacher raises would range from $2,500 to $3,500, but the allocations didn’t allow for that level of pay increase, Webb said.

“That was pie in the sky,” she said.

Raises aren’t the only union concern as contract negotiations continue. In the past, the school district has paid the entire cost of health insurance premiums for employees and the union is hoping to see that continue, Webb said.

This year’s cost to the district would be $6,036.36 per eligible employee, the union reported, an increase of $63.09.

Although employees have always received the health benefit at no cost for themselves, they do have to pay if they want coverage for family members.

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