Civil Service union nabs 18-percent pay raises for BKW workers

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Buses were rolling and kids were racing to start the school year last September at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. BKW bus drivers have now been awarded a 3-percent raise for the 2019-20 school year, applied retroactively.

HILLTOWNS — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board unanimously approved a renewed contract for workers represented by the Civil Service Employees Association that gives them a graduating 18-percent raise over a five-year period. The raise for the 2019-20 school year, which will be applied retroactively, is 3 percent. 

The rate of pay will increase by 3 percent again for the 2020-21 school year. Then, the rate of pay will increase by 4 percent each year until 2024, when the contract expires.

Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2004, will contribute 20 percent toward their health insurance, which BKW’s media handler, John Roetzel, suggested was congruent with last year’s contribution.

The workers that CSEA represents at BKW are bus drivers, custodians, cooks, and buildings and grounds maintenance and clerical workers. 

“Members overwhelmingly ratified the contract on Dec. 18, 2019, with over 80 percent of the 49 bargaining unit members voting,” said CSEA’s Capital Region spokeswoman, Therese Assalian. 

The school board approved the contract at its Jan. 6 meeting.

In a press release sent to The Enterprise in lieu of answering questions directly, BKW’s superintendent Timothy Mundell said that contract negotiations, which took place in three 2-hour installments over five months’ time, were cooperative and respectful. 

The district’s CSEA president, JoAnn Rupeka, did not immediately respond to questions sent by The Enterprise over Facebook.

In addition to base salary increases, workers who have been employed by the district for 15 years or more will receive additional compensation in fixed amounts that increase with each passing year until 2024, when the contract expires. Bus drivers, for instance, will receive $2,008.50 in addition to their wages for the 2019-20 school year. For the 2023-24 school year, that amount will have increased to $2,327.07.

The press release says that the combined salaries for workers covered by CSEA is $1,200,000, as of the most recent budget. Split among the 49 members, the average salary is approximately $24,500.

The district would not reveal the exact hourly wages and salaries of the employees. The Enterprise has filed a Freedom of Information Law request to obtain a copy of the contract. 

“[The board of education] has stated many times that it values all staff and wants to see everyone compensated fairly,” wrote BKW school board president Nathan Elble in an email to The Enterprise. 

Members of the school board were not involved in the face-to-face negotiations, Elble said.

Custodial and maintenance workers will also receive an increased allowance for uniforms, Assalian told The Enterprise. Workers will be reimbursed by the district for uniform costs of up to $200 per year, double what was provided last year. 

Also new in this contract are nine-and-a-half paid holidays for 10-month employees, said Assalian. The holidays are Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the day following, half of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Good Friday, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day. 


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