FARMINGTON — School board members and union officials this week failed to agree on a new contract for Mt. Blue Regional School District 9 support staff, leaving a bleak outlook for dozens of district workers who face layoffs or the loss of benefits if a deal isn’t reached soon.

A contract mediation session Tuesday night fell apart after they couldn’t reach an agreement to prevent proposed layoffs and cuts in benefits affecting nearly 40 district custodians and bus drivers, according to officials on both sides of the negotiating table.

The stalemate stems from a recent school board decision seeking to save at least $200,000 in the proposed school budget for the coming year and each subsequent year. They voted late last month to make the budget cuts by subcontracting the district’s custodial services, unless a new contract agreement was reached with the union representing the workers.

Before that vote, contract negotiations between the union and school district had been deadlocked for the past 14 months.

Doug Hodum, lead negotiator for the support staff union unit, on Wednesday said district officials refused during the mediation session to accept workers’ offer to make significant concessions in an attempt to avoid subcontracting.

Superintendent Michael Cormier on Wednesday said that district officials offered several proposals to avoid subcontracting while also reaching the $200,000 in savings the school board included in the budget proposal.

Cormier would not discuss details because the negotiations were held in executive session. He is an adviser and secretary for the district’s contract negotiating committee, which consists of six school board members.

The failed mediation session doesn’t halt negotiations, but there is a fast-approaching deadline because the added $200,000 in savings is already included in the proposed 2012-13 school budget that will be sent for a validation vote next Thursday.

According to the school board’s plan, if the subcontracting moves forward 18 custodians represented by the school district’s support staff union would have to laid off to realize the savings. Additionally, the hours of about 20 bus drivers who also work part time as custodians would be reduced, which would eliminate their benefit packages.

The support staff union represents a total of 82 district employees, which includes maintenance workers, education technicians and other support staff besides the custodians and bus drivers, Hodum said.

Hodum also wouldn’t disclose details, but he said all of the employees in the support staff union agreed to make some concessions in hopes of saving the custodians jobs.

Hodum noted the union plans to pursue all of its options following the failed mediation. He said the next step after a failed mediation consists of more fact-finding and further arbitration.

Cormier said district officials are willing to continue to negotiate with the union. He added, however, that a deal would probably have to be reached by some time this summer because the school district’s fiscal year begins July 1.

The $28,907,417 budget proposal will be presented at the district’s budget meeting Monday, in the Mt. Blue High School gymnasium at 7 p.m. The validation vote will be next Thursday.

David F. Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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