Commonwealth Court has affirmed a Luzerne County judge’s ruling that awards $1.2 million in back pay to Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18 Education Association teachers, a union negotiator announced Friday.
The dispute centered on the expired teachers contract that has been in negotiations for more than three years. The contract expired Aug. 31, 2010, and teachers have been working under the terms of the old contract without getting any raises.
The union contends teachers legally should have received a “step” raise in 2010-11 even though the contract expired Aug. 31, 2010. Teacher contracts give raises every year up to a set number of years, called steps. The union’s position hinged on a matter of days: It argued that the first day of work that school year was Aug. 23, so the contract was still in effect and thus they still should have received the annual step raise for 2010-11
Pennsylvania State Education Association Regional Field Director, lead negotiator for the LIU teachers, noted in a press release that the LIU’s appeal to Commonwealth Court was the second appeal that LIU attorney John Audi filed, calling it “frivolous” and “a waste of taxpayer money.”
“This is the third time Audi has litigated this matter and lost, in arbitration, (Luzerne County Court of) Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court,” Holland said.
Reached Friday evening, Audi asked rhetorically how “appealing a $1.2 million award and attempting to stop that payment” can be considered frivolous.
Audi said there was precedent set in a previous case, “but it didn’t set the standard,” and he said the LIU board is “absolutely considering” an appeal to the state Supreme Court.
“School districts really need to start in August because of snow days. Now (based on this ruling), they could be forced to start in September because, if they don’t, they could be forced to pay a king’s ransom. We think this is a loophole the PSEA has taken advantage of,” Audi said.