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Check Those CBA Website Postings

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, May 11, 2016

As most of our membership is aware, the Legal and Labor Team here at MASB continues to maintain and update our Employer Relations Information Network. Every year, we review as many labor contracts as we can find, from a majority of Michigan school districts, in order to provide ERiN subscribers with the most accurate information regarding salary data and trends as possible.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to explore ERiN recently, we encourage you to do so, especially if you’re in the midst of negotiations and would like to understand how your district compares with some of its peers with respect to compensation and so forth. Having said that, there is one somewhat troubling trend that we’re noticing as we work through individual bargaining agreements from around the state; namely that many of the contracts being posted on district websites do not appear to be the final, complete and “current” collective bargaining agreements.

Most are aware of the fact that Michigan law requires that current collective bargaining agreements be posted along with other pertinent financial information (budgets, deficit elimination plans, etc.). Inherent within this requirement is the notion that the agreement posted must be the agreement that is actually in full force and effect for the district, in its entirety. Hence, while an unsigned copy of a district’s CBA may, in fact, be a wholly accurate representation of the current contract, in reality, the fact that it is unsigned at least raises the question as to whether or not the uploaded version is incomplete or, perhaps, represents a draft rather than the final version. This, of course, could lead to some significant consternation and, possibly even grievances or litigation, should an employee rely upon a clause in a posted CBA, only to later learn that the posted agreement contained language that was not part of (or was different from) the final, ratified document.

One can easily envision a scenario wherein a prior CBA draft, containing language that (for example) indicates that staff are afforded five personal days per year, is uploaded to the district website and relied upon by an employee, only to later realize that personal days were actually reduced to three per year in an agreement that was finalized at the last minute. Is the fact that the employee relied upon the district’s website posting a valid excuse for not adhering to the revised language? And, if so, is the district now forced to “look the other way” in all such situations since it has done so for this particular staff member? This would obviously result in a very frustrating outcome for administrators, especially since obtaining that two-day concession from the staff probably came as the result of some district concessions elsewhere.

In addition to the posting of unsigned agreements and the questions this raises as to whether or not the posted CBA represents the “complete” agreement, MASB staff has also noticed that there are several bargaining agreements posted that contain handwritten notes in the margins regarding bargaining talks and strategy, as well as contracts with entire portions—such as the calendar, salary schedule, appendices and so forth—that are completely missing. Obviously, if challenged on this issue, it might be difficult for a district to maintain that they have complied with the law if the CBA currently posted on its website does not contain something as fundamental as its current salary schedule.

So, in short, we are advising that every district undertake a quick review of the CBAs that you have posted to ensure that they represent the final, complete and, if possible, signed agreement for that particular bargaining unit. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call our Labor and Legal Team at 517.327.5900.

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