Support staff deserve fair treatment

Published on Monday, May 20, 2013

Good employers treat their employees fairly, not only because it’s the decent thing to do, but because workers who are justly compensated for their labor are more productive. When employees have job security—when they know their career prospects aren’t subject to the whims of their bosses—they are loyal to their employers.

The New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) seems to have forgotten this.

NJSBA has initiated a campaign to encourage local school boards to pass resolutions against two bills that would enable a measure of job security for educational support professionals (ESP): S-1191 and S-2163.

Allow staff input to find cost savings

S-1191 provides protections to employees threatened by subcontracting. It stipulates that districts must provide employees with at least 90 days’ notice of any effort to subcontract jobs. S-1191 would also require employers to bargain with employees over the impact of subcontracting, and school boards would not be allowed to subcontract employee jobs during the term of an existing contract. 

The bill is a common-sense approach to balancing the needs of employers and employees. It does not prohibit subcontracting, but requires that school boards adhere to reasonable guidelines prior to initiating a privatization scheme.

A school district cannot subcontract staff work during an existing collective bargaining agreement.  A contract is a contract and should not be broken. If a school district chooses to privatize a service, it must notify the affected employees in writing at least 90 days in advance of soliciting bids. Employees should be given a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the possibility of termination.

A school district must offer to sit down with affected employees and their union representatives to negotiate the impact.  Such discussion may lead to alternative solutions or cost savings. The employees who actually do the work are in an excellent position to find solutions in tough budget situations.  With advance notice, they can help identify cost saving measures and alternatives to privatization.

Any displaced employee must be given recall rights.  Many privatization arrangements do not work out.  If this happens, employees should be brought back to continue to provide the service they so ably performed in the past. 

Fairness for all school employees

S-2163 provides due process rights to school employees who do not currently have them.  School secretaries, some custodians, and attendance officers have due process rights by law. Some ESP have due process rights because they were negotiated through the collective bargaining process. Many other ESP staff members have no such protections.

What is fair and just for certain public school employees should be fair and just for all public school employees. Under S-2163, all school employees would have the same right to binding arbitration in disciplinary matters.

This bill does not take away a school district’s right to make managerial decisions and apply appropriate disciplinary actions when warranted. The provisions under this legislation merely allow school employees an opportunity to argue their side before a neutral third party, if they believe the disciplinary action is unwarranted.   

Monitor your local school board’s agenda

Local associations should be on alert that a resolution opposing these common-sense measures might appear on the agenda of their local board of education.  NJEA members are encouraged to contact school board members and explain the importance of the two bills and what they mean to ESP members.

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