Fairbanks Education Association receives response from the school district to their bargaining demands

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 4:57 PM AKST
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Last Tuesday, February 2nd, a meeting took place between teams from the Fairbanks Education Association (FEA) and the Fairbanks Northstar Borough School District to discuss the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding presented by FEA to bargain for changes in contractual language which would improve safety in the workplace for educators amidst the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. Sandi Ryan, president of the Fairbanks Education Association shared a copy of the Association’s proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU contained demands covering topics ranging from building cleaning protocols, classroom operational protocols, and staff sick leave procedures.

“That language from the MOU was mostly out of the SmartStart plan that we worked on. A lot of things that are in this MOU are things they’re already doing. We just want to keep them solid. We just want to keep them in place. We know if we can keep those mitigation protocols in place, if we can make sure masks don’t become suddenly optional, that these things that the CDC is still saying that we have to do [remain], that we have a good chance of not closing schools,” said Ryan.

According to Ryan, the outcome of the meeting did not go the direction the FEA had hoped for. “Unfortunately the district has let us know that they have no intention of talking, discussing, bargaining, whatever word they want to use, anything around protocols that they put into place.”

According to Ryan, the district has presented the FEA with a counter offer. “The only thing that they’re willing to do is they’re willing to give us a special leave code if we can prove that we got COVID, as traceable to the workplace - and so that would be the admin leave. They’re already doing that, and then they are also willing to buy certain people better masks. That’s about what we got from the MOU that they passed across.”

Before making any decisions concerning bargaining the FEA consults it’s general membership. Ryan explained, “We have a survey coming out next week. We will add these considerations of their agreement that they gave us, their counter proposal, and get opinion on that, and then we’ll proceed. So our next step will be to continue to advocate for this, and to help the public also understand the reasonability of what we’re asking. This is not a teachers demand more time off, this is... teachers are asking, or yeah, demanding [a] safe working environment. We’re entitled to a safe working environment, and your kids are entitled to a safe learning environment.”

Superintendent Karen Gaborik provided the district’s update on the next steps in this discussion. “They’re coming to the table and exchanging proposals and, you know, having a conversation about the different things. Of course the union has some interests, and the district has some interests. So beyond that my role basically is to let that process play out at the table. So we’re just working with them, scheduling meetings and continuing the dialog.”

The FEA has been asked back to the discussion table next Wednesday for confirmation on whether or not they agree to the district’s counter proposal, but President Ryan does not believe the FEA general membership will approve.

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