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School custodians seek 6% raise as talks begin


Custodians, maintenance workers, bus drivers and bus assistants proposed a salary increase equivalent to about 6 percent of base pay, as Carroll County began negotiating yesterday with its school employees.

The workers also proposed amending the pay scale to add four steps to the existing five levels of experience.

The Board of Education will make its salary proposal at the next negotiating session with the union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services. Mr. Smith is representing the board in negotiations with the union.

The deadline for finishing negotiations is April 8, so administrators can prepare the contracts for a conditional approval by the school board at its April 14 meeting.

The conditional approval will be in the form of an additional budget request the board will make to the county commissioners for money to cover any raises negotiated.

Mr. Smith said the board will not ratify the contracts until June, after the commissioners commit to the amount of money they will allow the schools.

The other four groups that will negotiate new contracts are teachers; food-service workers; administrators and supervisors; and clerks, teaching assistants and licensed practical nurses.

Thomas Kelleher, staff negotiator for the custodians' union, proposed a three-year contract including:

* Allowing some custodians to have a four-day workweek of 10 hours per day in the summer. Mr. Kelleher said scheduling could be worked out so there would be a custodian in the building five days a week.

* "Bumping" rights to protect senior workers in case of layoffs.

* Short- and long-term disability insurance, with half the premium paid by the school system and half by the employee.

* Protection for jobs and for the union should the county or a private agency take over building maintenance or other jobs done by employees in this unit.

Mr. Kelleher said the additional steps on the pay scale would permit raises for union members who are at the top of the scale, which means they have five or more years of experience.

More than half of the employees are at that level, he said, and they haven't had a salary increase for the past three years.

School employees have been getting only increment and longevity raises.

Mr. Smith said he would return next week with proposals on wages and one other item, which he said he was "not at liberty" to reveal.

However, Mr. Kelleher said the mystery item related to a House bill that addresses the areas of discipline and firing as collective-bargaining items.

The board also proposed eliminating a contract clause requiring custodians to be payed at overtime rates for after-school and weekend activities.

Mr. Smith said the issue arose last spring, when schools were in danger of running out of money to pay custodians. Programs offered at schools by community recreation councils would have been jeopardized.

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