Medford school workers contract unsettled

With today marking the end of a 150-day bargaining process, classified employees of the Medford School District have yet to reach a contract agreement for this school year.

Midnight is the official end of an expedited bargaining process between classified employees and the district, and as of Friday afternoon the two parties had not settled on a contract, district officials said.

"In a nutshell, we haven't come up with an agreement," said Todd Bloomquist, human resources director for the Medford School District.

There is a possibility classified employees could put a new offer on the table today, according to Bloomquist.

If the deadline passes and no contract agreement is reached, negotiations will end, and the district will then decide which cuts classified employees will have to make.

"You would think by now we would have worked it out," Bloomquist said.

Along with teachers and administrators, classified employees were asked last spring by the district to cut costs by 8 percent to help bridge an $11 million budget shortfall district-wide this year.

The district hoped $1.25 million in savings would come from a combination of pay cuts and benefits savings by classified employees.

Teachers and administrators agreed on contracts in June, which included a new insurance plan, eight furlough days, and a 6 percent paycheck contribution to cover Public Employee Retirement System costs.

In late August, the district proposed that classified employees also put up a 6 percent PERS contribution, in addition to insurance policy changes, but workers narrowly voted against approving both changes at once.

Instead, classified employees voted in September on only the insurance policy, because September was an open enrollment period for the policy. Negotiations have also included the possibility of furlough days for classified employees, but deciding on the days and which employees would be affected has stymied any decisions.

Messages left for a classified employee union representative regarding negotiations were not returned Friday.

District officials have continued to negotiate with classified employees, considering cuts that would have the least negative impact on students.

Officials have said that large-scale layoffs to cover the cuts would be a "last resort" option.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com

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