In the Q&A document distributed on August 30, 2016, there was a question as to whether the one-time payment to employees on Step 25 would be included in the average final salary for the purposes of retirement benefit calculation. On August 30th we did not have a definitive answer. We have since confirmed that the one-time payment cannot be considered part of average final salary, and it provoked the Board and TAAAC to modify the amount of the payment.
The $883.80 amount originally calculated during mediation was a matter of taking available funding and dividing it among the Unit I employees on Step 25. Within that amount however was a $42.51 charge to cover the employer’s contribution to the employee’s retirement. That charge reduced the payment to cover an expense that we now know will not be incurred. So, the parties agreed to keep money in the employee’s pocket. The one-time payment will be increased to a pre-tax amount of $926.31. The projected cost of the package did not change. The only modification was that $42.51 that would otherwise have gone to the state pension system for each employee impacted will now stay with the employee.
ON CONFIDENTIALITY IN NEGOTIATIONS
Confidentiality in negotiations has been getting some attention over the past year. It is hardly unique to Anne Arundel County. Some level of confidentiality is nearly universal in collective bargaining. There are a few reasons, and in mediation the participating parties have little choice in the matter.
THE NEGOTIATED AGREEMENT SHARED BY TAAAC AND THE BOARD PROVIDES THE FOLLOWING IN ARTICLE 22E:
The content of negotiations discussions shall be regarded as confidential. There shall be no public announcement or press releases on the content of negotiations discussions prior to the (1) successful conclusion of negotiations or (2) impasse being declared by the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board, unless by mutual agreement.
The above provision shall not prevent the Board team from seeking guidance from the Board and staff or the TAAAC team from seeking guidance from its members.
The above language has existed in the Negotiated Agreement in the same substantive form since 1970, and it is not unusual to find such provisions in other collective bargaining agreements. By its nature, negotiations often involve difficult conversations and some honest no-holds-barred discussion. Those types of conversations are unlikely to occur when there is risk that the content might appear on a blog, website, tweet, or barroom conversation. In practice, there is really no solid agreement on any individual items until the entire package is settled, and prospective settlement can easily be disrupted if either party begins sharing it in pieces for a public debate on each piece.
Maintaining confidentiality is sufficiently commonplace that professional impartials typically insist on it during mediation. We have been in mediation four times over the past six years before three mediators. Each required at least a verbal commitment to confidentiality that was recorded in the notes. One required that every team member for both parties in the room sign a written agreement.