As the end of the school year approaches, districts are left with an array of tasks to complete before the students leave for the fun-filled summer wonderment of open fire hydrants, late-night games of manhunt, and eliminated bedtimes.
However, one task the board need not worry about is whether a new collective negotiations agreement has been reached. Simply put, there is no requirement the board and union reach an agreement before the end of the school year. In fact, a significant number of settlements are not reached until after students have returned in September.
Further, not reaching a settlement until after the start of the school year has little impact upon the operation of the district or the union membership. Everything within the expired agreement will remain the same, unchanged, until the parties reach an agreement. Staff will come to work and do their jobs, and students will continue to learn. While employees will not receive a raise until an agreement is reached, neither they will lose anything. Indeed, employees will continue to be paid exactly what they were making, and retain all benefits that existed when the agreement expired.
In short, having the school year end without reaching agreement on a new collective negotiations agreement means the status quo continues. There are no additional benefits or losses for either party. While the union may claim its members will be harmed by starting the new school year under the terms of the expired agreement, this is not true. It simply means the employee will continue to work under the same terms and conditions existing within the expired contract, nothing more, nothing less.
Throughout the negotiations, the board’s settlement goals must be kept in mind. The process should not be rushed due to the arbitrary nature of the calendar. It may be necessary for the negotiations to continue into the next school year for the board to achieve its bargaining goals. A well-planned and executed negotiations strategy is important. Keep in mind, NJSBA’s Legal and Labor Relations Department is available to discuss and assist your district in the planning of its strategy.
In sum, not reaching an agreement on a new collective negotiations agreement before staff leaves for summer vacation will not hinder the board’s ability to achieve its bargaining goals. Further, there will be no impact upon the staff, as they will continue to operate under the terms of the expiring contract until a new one is settled.