The chief contract negotiator for Carroll teachers says the Board ofEducation has jeopardized a tentative labor agreement by unilaterally deciding to raise salaries for beginning and second-year teachers.

But Superintendent R. Edward Shilling contends that the school board is not legally bound to negotiate the issue with the teachers union, based on the current contract and Maryland law.

Under the contract, the Carroll County Education Association agrees not to object to increases in starting salaries, and necessary adjustments for succeeding steps, determined by the school board. But italso says CCEA "does not waive its right to contest unilateral salary changes nor does the board agree that such changes are mandatory subjects of bargaining."

Harold Fox, chief CCEA negotiator, said theschool board's surprise action Wednesday could be challenged legallyby the union and "creates a question of integrity in the collective bargaining process."

"For the board to come in now and, in essence, give people not even working in the system a raise is at the very least highly insensitive and puts the whole issue of the contract settlement in jeopardy," said Fox.

CCEA president Maureen Dincher saidsalary issues always have been negotiated "as a matter of courtesy" and also questioned the school board's legal authority.

The increases affect not only first- and second-year teachers, but throw the whole salary index out of kilter, said Fox.

The school board voted unanimously to increase beginning teachers' salaries from $22,414 to $23,370 for the 1991-1992 school year. The salary could be as high as $24,000 if the teachers participate in an optional six-day training program. The board also voted to raise the second-step teachers' salary from $23,311 to $24,000.

Shilling said the increases are necessary to make beginning teacher salaries in Carroll -- ranked 19th out of 24 Maryland jurisdictions -- more competitive. More experienced county teachers compare more favorably statewide, he said.

"Frankly, I think senior teachers will understand the reason for raising the beginning salary," he said.

But Fox believes union members will be displeased with the school board's action, saying he expects the tentative contract to be rejected, based on initial reactions.

The CCEAexecutive board agreed Thursday to submit the tentative agreement toa vote of the 1,220 members, probably early this week. If it is rejected, the two sides will return to the bargaining table, with the salary changes a likely point of contention. If the contract is ratified, the salary issue could be challenged through collective bargaining procedures, said Fox.

Because of the county's budgetary woes, the CCEA agreed to accept no cost-of-living salary increases for next year. Dincher and Fox say they are disturbed that increases subsequentlywere approved for some, while others will go without.

Contract talks went to impasse in April over several key issues, including sick-leave policy, a smoke-free workplace arrangement and additional working days for teachers. The two sides went before a mediator several weeks ago, but did not make significant progress.

But last week, thesides reached a tentative pact, just before the board's action.

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