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Union workers finally get their pay raise

Despite not having agreed to a contract, the Oak Harbor School District gave members of the Public School Employees union members a raise.

The school district recently provided a 3.7 percent cost of living allowance to the union members that work the support positions in the school district.

Union members were grateful that the school district would make such a move before a suitable contract was approved by both sides.

“Such an act was a pretty courageous thing to do,” PSE member Tom Coe said during Monday’s Oak Harbor School Board meeting. “We appreciate the courage to do that.”

Union members have been working without a contract since Aug. 31. The parties have been working since May to hash out a new agreement. Then, after talks stalled in December, a state mediator was brought in to help the union and the school district to come to an agreement. There have been three meetings and a fourth one is scheduled to take place next week.

Meanwhile, staff will see the pay raise in their February checks and it’s retroactive to Sept. 1.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said the district is still bargaining with the union and that the raise will help make progress in the sessions.

The school district hadn’t provided the raise, which is partially funded through state money, because a new contract hadn’t been signed.

The raises the staff is receiving will cost the school district approximately $207,000. The district will receive approximately $95,000 from the state to help pay for the raise. The school district is responsible for coming up with the $112,000 remainder.

The two parties have met 20 times over the past seven months. Wages and district contributions to health benefits are two major sticking points. The union entered negotiations with 28 issues and the school district had 10 issues. Currently, only two school district issues and nine union issues haven’t been resolved.

School board members Corey Johnson and Gary Wallin have recused themselves from influencing decisions or participating in regular briefings concerning negotiations because both have spouses who are union members.

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