Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The union agreed to the contract terms Wednesday night.

Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 has settled a contract dispute with its 320-member education support staff union.

After working a year without a contract, IU-20 and the bargaining unit reached a tentative six-year contract on Sept. 11. But a dispute soon arose between the two sides over the agreement’s salary terms.

IU-20 argued that support staff agreed to salary terms that would result in a one-year pay freeze, but the union said that was not the case. The two sides filed unfair labor practice claims against each other with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in December.

At a Jan. 28 board meeting, the IU-20 board authorized Solicitor John Freund to make a settlement offer. The union accepted the offer Wednesday night after the board issued a March 25 final deadline, which was extended to April 3 at the union’s behest.

“Although confident of prevailing in front of the (labor relations board), CIU-20 board members were concerned about what years of litigation would do to its staff members,” said Charlene Brennan, IU-20 executive director.

Pennsylvania State Education spokeswoman Lauri Lebo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new offer gives salary increases to staff for all six years of the contract ratified in September. Support staff will see retroactive raises of 2.02 percent for 2013-14, then 2.07 percent this year and in 2015-16 they will receive raises of about 3.6 percent, Brennan said.

IU-20 also asked to change the contract’s grievance language to match the other union contracts.

The board was pleased to receive the signed settlement, Brennan said. IU-20 officials very much appreciate the union members and all they do for kids, she said. The support staff union members include secretaries, certified occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants.

“This settlement, initiated by the CIU 20, shows we care about our staff very much,” Brennan said. “We were willing to put our dispute with union leadership and ‘being right’ aside to do what is good and right for our support staff, who arguably have the most difficult jobs in the IU region.”

The union’s raises are tied to IU-20 teachers’ raises, which are calculated by a formula that averages out the raises teachers received in all of the supporting districts. 

If IU-20 teachers got a 3.5 percent raise, the support staff members would see that raise the following year.

The dispute arose because teachers agreed to salary freezes in 2012-13, which would then apply to the support staff in 2013-14. The union argued it was entitled to the raises the teachers gave up.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.