Teachers far from contract agreement

Gap between union, Anchorage district widens to $8 million

Posted: Friday, September 09, 2005

ANCHORAGE - The gap in demands between the Anchorage teacher's union and the school district widened to about $8 million during renewed talks over a contract this week, according to negotiators.

District bargainers said they were "shocked" by the proposal and did not come back with a counteroffer. Union officials said the offer is a result of bargaining for a one-year rather than three-year contract.

"We were shocked when the union gave us a proposal that now puts us $8 million apart," said Eric Tollefsen, district director of human resources.

But Rich Kronberg, union president, had said that if teachers accepted a one-year contract, they would want more money.

The union's offer had already been presented to the district earlier this summer. It includes raises of 4 percent and $800 a month to employee health insurance premiums.

Going into talks Tuesday, the difference between the two sides' demands came to about $1.5 million.

Anchorage Education Association officials said they were disappointed a settlement was not reached and surprised that the district team didn't show up with an offer for the table.

Tollefsen said the district did not attempt a counteroffer during this week's talks because they were focused on talking to the union team about ways of bridging the $1.5 million gap.

"I think the next time we meet, we'll be ready to give them something," Tollefsen said.

Forging a one-year deal has been the unofficial new goal since teachers last week overwhelmingly shot down the district's last offer and approved a walkout.

Both sides have said they want to meet again, as early as Thursday.

"We do have a sense of urgency," Tollefsen said. "We're well aware of the fact that they've taken a strike vote and might strike."

The union represents roughly 3,400 district employees - teachers, school nurses, librarians, counselors and others who work directly with students. Negotiations have lasted nearly a year, with union members without a contract since June 30.

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