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Contract Negotiations FAQs

Contract Negotiations FAQs
  1. Are negotiations meetings public?  Yes, all interested stakeholders are welcome and encouraged to attend, including teachers, principals, parents, students and district staff. The meetings only become private if one of the parties moves the process into mediation.
  2. What are the purpose of negotiations? To set the terms and conditions of employment for the members of the affected union(s).
  3. What do you mean by “terms and conditions of employment?” According to Minnesota statute, “terms and conditions of employment" means the hours of employment, compensation including fringe benefits except retirement contributions or benefits other than employer payment of, or contributions to, premiums for group insurance coverage of retired employees or severance pay, and the employer's personnel policies affecting the working conditions of the employees. In the case of professional employees, terms and conditions of employment do not mean educational policies, which are issues that are the responsibility of the Board of Education or district administration.
  4. Why does MPS sometimes decline to discuss an MFT proposal? This may happen when MPS does not agree that the proposal rises to the standard of “terms and conditions of employment,” so should not be part of the contract being negotiated. That doesn’t mean action isn’t necessary, just that the contract is not the place for that action. For example, policies related to wellness or site councils mandate how we do business in MPS, but should not be included in the contract.
  5. What if I’m a teacher and I don’t agree with the proposals my union is making?  Talk to your union steward or representative during non-instructional time or outside the duty day. You may also want to consult with your building administrator. And remember, negotiations meetings are public and all are welcome to attend.
  6. What does it mean when the formal negotiations teams “caucus” at the meetings? What are they doing? This is when the team meets privately to discuss strategy and next steps.
  7. If MPS is facing a $33 million deficit, how can they afford to give teachers pay increases? The goal of negotiations is to arrive at terms and conditions of employment that benefit the entire district. Budget challenges may impact decisions made.
  8. I heard that the district is trying to cut 5% of teachers’ pay. Is that true?  No. We are proposing flexibility in the calendar as part of negotiations. Because extending the calendar has not shown a correlation with improved academic outcomes for students, we are proposing being able to adjust down from our current 176 instructional days, since the state only requires 165 days. This would offer a cost reduction of as much as $1 million per day for the district. That would subsequently eliminate up to 11 teacher duty days and teachers would be paid only for the days they work – which would be slightly less if this decision is made.
  9. What is the Board of Education’s stance on MPS proposals?  The board dictates the stance and content of MPS negotiations, and is responsible for setting policies based on the law. The board has directed the negotiations team to maintain its focus on terms and conditions of employment, not policy. If policy were part of negotiations, the board would be giving its authority to another body. For more information on Board of Education policy, go to http://policy.mpls.k12.mn.us/.
  10. Do teachers always receive pay increases from negotiations?  MPS values and invests in its employees. Over the past 10 years, union employees have received salary increases of between 8% and 25%. Salary increases related to contract “steps” continue to be automatic based on the contract.
  11. How long do you expect negotiations to last?  That’s difficult to predict. Going forward, however, MPS would like to institute more timely contract negotiations for staff and has proposed contract language requiring both parties to begin the negotiations process six months before the contract is designated to end.
  12. Is there a time by which negotiations MUST be done? No.
  13. I understand that the MPS teachers’ contract has already expired? Why did you start so late? Yes, the contract has expired, however because Minnesota has a continuing contract statute, contracts remain in place even if they’ve expired. Because there is no longer a deadline for completing contract negotiations, many contracts across the state are not yet settled. The negotiations process in MPS did, in fact, start in May of this past year with filings, data requests and other preparatory work, but the meetings didn’t start until September.