Oak Harbor school workers request mediator

OAK HARBOR — Fed up with negotiations, Oak Harbor bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other school employees have requested a state mediator to help them settle on a contract with the Oak Harbor School District.

The employees and school administrators are at odds over salary increases, vacation time, health insurance funding, work shifts and the process used to assign extra-curricular field trips to bus drivers.

“These are issues that affect many, many people’s lives,” said Linda Preder, union co-president and a school bus driver. “It’s the district’s backbone. It’s the people who do the work. It’s the people who hand the kids off.”

More than 260 union members have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.

“We welcome mediation,” said school district spokesman Joe Hunt. “It’s the third successive contract in which a mediator was requested. The previous two times resulted in an agreement that was suitable to both sides and we hope the same thing happens.”

He said the sticking point is determining what fair is.

“The school district essentially wants the same things that union wants: fair wage, fair benefits,” he said. “We come to the same problem. How do you determine what is fair?”

The union hasn’t issued a strike authorization yet, but members are scheduled to discuss it at a meeting in January, Preder said.

She said some employees are struggling to make ends meet, and everyone is eager for a contract.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or kmanry@heraldnet.com.

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