Source: Sherman Publications

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Bus, food workers ratify contract
Fate of privatization up to school board

by CJ Carnacchio

June 02, 2010

The potential privatization of Oxford Community Schools' transportation services could be a dead issue if the board of education ratifies a three-year contract approved Tuesday by the district's union employees.

"What I would say is if the board is happy with the contract, if they committed to ratifying the contract, that certainly would change the whole status of the privatization," said Deputy Superintendent Nancy Kammer, the district's chief negotiator. "Our goal is that we wouldn't have to privatize, that we would be able to realize savings and maintain our employees."

Employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) voted 54-6 to ratify the new contract, which would expire Aug. 31, 2012.

This proposed contract involves the district's 45 transportation employees and 36 food service workers.

"We've gone through the entire contract and looked at some ways to save (on) costs," Kammer said. "We have been working on an

expired contract since Sept. 1, 2009."

Kammer noted the district appreciates the employee group "stepping up" and voting for the agreement.

"Negotiations really went well as far as working together and coming up with this contract," she said.

Specific details about exactly what's in the proposed contract, including potential concessions, were not yet available and won't be unless the school board votes to approve the agreement.

"Because of our rules of bargaining, I can't (give) any information until after ratification," said Tim Loock, assistant superintendent of business and operations.

"Our agreement is that we would not put that information out until it's finalized," said Kammer, who noted a special school board meeting to discuss and vote on the proposed contract is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, June 3 at Oxford High School.

Because the board will be discussing the terms of the proposed contract, the meeting will be a closed session with the exception of the actual vote, which must take place in open session.

Is the potential privatization of the district's transportation services a dead issue thanks to the union's affirmative vote for the proposed contract?

"I can't really answer that at this point because they (the school board) would have to analyze what kind of savings the (proposed union) contract has and determine whether that's enough," Kammer said.

"In my mind, it won't be dead until the board ratifies the contract with AFSCME," said Loock, who noted the two private companies bidding to provide bus services, First Student and One Button Services, were interviewed last week.

Board approval doesn't necessarily mean the district's done exploring privatization.

"Even if there's a contract ratified, (unless) the board instructs me to stop pursuing the (private) contracting, it's not really dead," Loock said.