Labor Board: Arbitrator Was Right

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 7/30/2016 12:00:51 AM
Modified: 7/30/2016 12:01:01 AM

Claremont — The New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board on Friday upheld an arbitrator’s decision that the Claremont School Board must compensate Stevens High School teachers for the additional instruction time that resulted from a schedule change implemented at the school last fall.

The labor board ruled in favor of the claim by the Sugar River Education Association — the Claremont teachers union that has been battling the school district over the Stevens High schedule for more than a year — and affirmed by the arbitrator, that the school district’s violation of the collective bargaining agreement with the union constituted an unfair labor practice.

The latest decision means the district will not only have to revert back to the school’s traditional block schedule for the upcoming school year, as ordered by the labor board earlier this month, but also must pay teachers an additional 8 percent of their salary, which the school district says it has done.

The compensation provision initially was ordered by independent arbitrator Gary Altman in an April decision where he also reiterated that the district must revert to the block schedule.

The school board and administration have argued all along that setting the schedule is their authority under state law and is a power that can’t be taken away by an arbitrator.

The labor board spoke directly to that claim.

The board said it rejects “the district’s general argument that sustaining the Sugar River Education Association’s complaint violates a strong and dominant public policy expressed in (state law) because the award is tantamount to giving ‘unaccountable labor arbitrators,’ and not school board members, responsibility over academic policy and instruction methods.”

All the arbitrator did, the board, said was adhere to the CBA; he did not set a clas schedule.

In response to a cease and desist request filed by the teachers’ union, the labor board on July 7 ruled against the district, ordering the block schedule be reinstated at Stevens High.

The labor board noted in that nine-page ruling that the district acknowledged it had violated the collective bargaining agreement by implementing the new schedule, and therefore would pay Stevens teachers for the additional instructional time caused by the switch.

SAU 6 Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said in an email on Friday night that the school district has paid $187,000 to 33 teachers at Stevens for last school year’s additional instruction time.

James Allmendinger, a National Education Association attorney who represented the union, said in an email that the ruling by the labor board was not a surprise, but was significant nonetheless.

“That does not make this decision any less important in its treatment of the administration’s and the school board’s intransigent refusal both to deal fairly with the (union) and to honor its contractual commitments,” he said.

The dispute between the school district and the union began when the school board proposed the so-called A/B schedule, under which students took classes on alternate days of the week for an entire year instead of the block schedule’s four classes every day for one semester.

Despite strong union opposition to the change, the school board voted to implement the new schedule, even after Altman ruled in June 2015 that doing so was a violation of the collective bargaining agreement with the Sugar River Education Association.

Attempts to negotiate a resolution continued over the 2015-16 school year, but when those efforts failed, the case went back to Altman, who sided with the union again in April.

In both decisions, Altman cited the collective bargaining agreement, which includes a side agreement that establishes the block schedule.

It also includes a provision that arbitration decisions are binding for both parties.

Attempts on Friday to reach school board Chairman Brian Rapp and union President Tammy Lynn Yates for comment were unsuccessful.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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