State College

State College Area support staff again reject contract

The State College Education Support Personnel Association “virtually unanimously” rejected Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board contract recommendations for a second time Thursday, according to a release by the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Members of the SCESPA continue to find fault in proposed changes to health care payouts, the release said, indicating that an agreement would financially burden its members.

“The bottom line is the salary recommendation didn’t cover the proposed changes in health care in terms of increased out-of-pocket expenses and increased premium share to the employees,” PSEA representative Jane Brubaker said.

Employees have been working without a contract since the previous one expired June 30, Brubaker said. Negotiations for a new contract began in January.

According to the report, the SCESPA proposed to increase the employee monthly cost share by $5 a month in the second and third years of the agreement, totaling $45 a month by July 2016. However, the district is looking at greater increases in deductibles and copays.

“The (d)istrict explains that its health care premium costs have increased faster than inflation and that projected increases are between $350,000 and $400,000 over the life of the (a)greement if no changes are made,” the report says. “If these projections prove accurate, the increase in total compensation to employees would be close to 4 percent in each year of the (a)greement without any increases in wages or pension costs.”

SCESPA President Shelbi Smeltzer said the association has been more than willing to compromise on many issues, the release said, but won’t agree to financially burden its members.

“All we are proposing is that no employee ends up taking a pay cut because of health care costs,” she said in the release.

District solicitor Scott Etter said the the district and administration reviewed the report, finding it an acceptable compromise. They voted twice to accept it.

“The association apparently wasn’t willing to accept the compromise from the independent fact-finder,” he said.

Etter wasn’t sure what the position of either party will be when they head back to the negotiation table, but he said he thinks negotiations won’t be over soon.