Story last updated at 11:37 a.m. Friday, August 2, 2002

Contract disputes remain unsettled
by Carey James
Staff Writer

Dueling claims of unfair labor practices between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the teacher and support staff unions remain unsettled this week, according to the Alaska Labor Relations Board, which is investigating both claims.

The district's claim, filed in mid-May, alleged that improperly obtained e-mail messages regarding current contract negotiations, said to have been intercepted by union members, had compromised the talks. The district asked for restitution for costs of the e-mail investigation, attorney's fees and the salaries of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association members placed on administrative leave as a result of the alleged e-mail theft.

On July 19, KPEA and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association filed an unfair labor practices claim of their own, charging five violations.

The unions say the district retracted an agreement to request a mediator, has consistently stalled talks, and violated an agreement to issue joint press releases. In addition, the claim states that when the district filed its unfair labor practices claim, it contradicted an earlier claim that it did not question the integrity of the union's bargaining team. The unions also found fault in a letter the district sent to all district employees on July 2 with information about an offer made to the unions on April 13. Since the offer was retracted shortly after, the unions argue that the information sent out was misleading, and "even if such a proposal did exist, the information included (in the letter) is inaccurate, false, and misleading," the unions' claim states.

In their request for restitution, the unions ask that the district mail a retraction letter, withdraw its unfair labor practice claim against the unions, and return to the bargaining table this month, among other requests.

Jean Ward, investigator for the Alaska Labor Relations Board, said both investigations are ongoing, and a decision as to the merit of each portion of both claims hopefully will be made in the coming weeks.

She said the district has been sent a request for its position on the union allegations, and the district has until Tuesday to respond.

Ward said a heavy caseload has delayed her work on the claims.

If either claim is determined to have merit, it will be given a full hearing before the Alaska Labor Relations Board.

Contracts for teachers and support staff expired in June, but since negotiations are ongoing, the terms of the old contract are being continued.

The district and unions are expected to return to the bargaining table in September, despite the unfair labor practices claims.