District, teachers in mediation over contracts

Sequim teachers and the Sequim School District are getting some outside help with contract negotiations.

Representatives from the district and the Sequim Education Association, the local teachers’ union, have asked for assistance in negotiations through the Public Employees Relations Commission.

Association representatives declined to go into detail about what separates the parties in the collective bargaining process, but SEA co-president Jon Eekhoff said he doesn’t expect the contract negotiations to affect start of the school year.

“We’ll see what mediation does for us,” he said.

Following large staff turnouts at a district budget meeting on Aug. 17 and a regular board meeting on Aug. 21 — when Sequim School Board directors approved the 2017-2018 budget — SEA and district representatives continued to meet until talks broke down on Aug. 23.

Eekhoff said the SEA wanted to continue to work on the contract issue but that district representatives ended negotiations, leading to the mediation. “This is kind of uncharted territory,” he said.

The Public Employees Relations Commission is a state agency with jurisdiction over public sector labor relations and collective bargaining. The commission assists parties in resolving contract negotiations without any costs to either party.

“As the bargaining process evolves to include mediation, we look forward to a positive outcome that benefits our community,” the school district said in a press release.

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