How are You Preparing for Negotiations?

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel


Kacie Kefgen

Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, Jan. 10, 2018

Whether you’ve started negotiations for the coming year or not, it’s a good time to make sure that you are adequately prepared for the process. The following is a “Checklist for Negotiations” that will help get your negotiations started on the right foot.

If you need assistance with any aspect of the preparation, including facilitating a meeting between your board and administrators, analyzing your current contract, providing general advice by phone or representing you at the bargaining table, please contact the MASB Labor Relations Department.

Data Collection Before Negotiations:

  • Total operational expenditures of your district
  • Current budget for the bargaining unit with which you are bargaining broken down by areas of expenditure—salaries, health and other insurances, MPSERS, other costs
  • Cost of 1% increase on your current salary schedule assuming your current staff
  • Cost of giving the step increase (also called increments) for current staff
  • Estimate of cost for lane changes (cost of moving staff who will be moving as a result of gaining additional educational credits)
  • Estimate of number of retirees for upcoming year and potential cost/savings
  • Analyze health insurance costs—80/20 versus hard cap
  • Health insurance bids—make sure to allow time for working with your union if changing carriers or plans is possible
  • Estimated MPSERS cost
  • Estimated State Aid for upcoming year
  • Student enrollment projections—may want an outside party to conduct
  • Project budget for upcoming year with three scenarios: worst case, middle of the road and best case; state your assumptions clearly and prepare good visuals for use in bargaining (not a spreadsheet), which can be easily understood by employees and the public
  • Review past three to five years of settlements and costs—what have bargaining unit members received in total compensation; prepare examples
  • Identify any new revenues expected or losses
  • Identify and quantify any cost savings efforts over the past three years

Processes for Preparation to Bargain:

  • Attend MASB’s 2018 Labor Relations Conference on Feb. 9 at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing to learn about the latest updates and trends on negotiating school district contracts
  • Contract analysis—at a minimum, review your own contract thoroughly looking for provisions that are problems for managers, provisions that may create problems, or need to be modified or removed because of changes in the law; best practice is to have your contract analyzed at regular intervals by an attorney who specializes in labor law or by MASB Labor Services staff attorneys to have a fresh set of knowledgeable eyes on your contract to provide outside insights
  • Meet with union leadership to discuss the process, solicit feedback and begin establishing expectations
  • Meet with administrators to review your contract; educate them on the collective bargaining process and ask about problems with managing staff under the expiring agreement
  • Board and administrators meet to discuss negotiations, establish strategies and goals, begin the discussion of parameters
  • If your district has more than one new board member and/or new administrators consider a mini in-house workshop (60-90 minutes) in which an MASB consultant reviews the law, discusses tactics and strategies, and assists in creat­ing a common understanding of the process, roles and responsi­bilities, and expectations among board members and administrators
  • Create/review your public relations plan for negotiations

Ongoing After Negotiations Begin:

  • Review union proposal with the board
  • Establish and review parameters with the board
  • Keep the board informed through regular communication
  • Review, revise and share your financial projections as details of funding and expenses becomes more certain
  • Consider your public relations strategy/tactics on an ongoing basis

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