The Juneau School Board on Tuesday approved a three-year contract with the Juneau Education Support Staff that gives employees a bonus in the first year and raises in the second and third years.
The 250-member union includes custodians, clerical workers, nurses and instructional and special education assistants. Most members now make about $11.19 to $16.57 an hour. They work for nine, 10 or 12 months of the year.
For the first time in five years, JESS members will move up the salary schedule, whose steps are intended to refer to years of experience. But the raises for going up a step are less than under the former schedule. The union approved the contract on Oct. 21.
"It's important to acknowledge that JESS members have taken a decrease with the understanding of step increases," JESS President Laura Mulgrew said.
The new wages and other expenses of the contract will cost an additional $916,000 over three years, the school district said.
The increase this fiscal year will be covered by the district's unreserved fund balance, which was at $344,000 at the end of June. In the following years, the contract will be paid for out of the fund balance, anticipated savings from turnover in employees and savings from paying off the district's indebtedness from early retirements, said Superintendent Gary Bader.
Under the new contract, those union members who were
employed on June 1 and still employed by Nov. 15 will get a first-year bonus equal to 3 percent of their current wages.
A new salary schedule will take effect in the second year. Its base salary will be the lower base that has existed since 1997 for new hires. And its step increases for years of experience will be 3 percent, down from the 4.5 percent of the former contract.
Increases of 4.5 percent were unrealistic, said Marysia Ochej, the school district's director of administrative services.
"The assumption is we're going to start having movement (on the schedule). That's the intent of the new schedule," she said.
In the contract's second year employees will be placed on the new schedule at a point equal to or slightly more than their current wages, and they'll move up one step to acknowledge a year of experience.
"For a lot of people (the increase) will be more than 3 percent because the placement is a bit more than what they're making now," said Patti Carlson, the school district's director of human resources.
In the contract's third year, all but the most experienced employees will move up a step. Those employees can move up steps only every other year. The new contract also increases the number of years of service needed to reach that stage.
The new contract in its third year also adds $4 a month per person to the district's health insurance payment, from $494 to $500. And it establishes, in the third year, a total of $5,000 that employees can draw from to pay for professional training.
The contract also gives JESS members the option of working some days of winter or spring breaks, rather than using up personal leave or going without pay because they don't have personal leave available. It's been a sore point that some employees had small paychecks going into Christmas because of long winter breaks.