All three Tri-Cities school districts still are negotiating with support employees over pay.
One of the districts — Pasco — is headed to mediation. A session with a state mediator is set for Friday.
Tuesday, some Pasco School District support workers, from secretarial staff to paraeducators, called out sick, possibly related to the negotiations.
Their union said it didn’t endorse a call-out, while the district said the number of absences was small and operations went on as usual.
Pasco union leader Sue Bumpaous said higher pay for classified workers is critical.
“We deserve a fair wage that gives us the ability to support ourselves. Many of us live paycheck to paycheck. I know one member who is living out of her shed to rent out her house for extra income,” she said in the statement.
Her group expects the district will “negotiate a fair and competitive contract” to attract and retain qualified workers, she said.
In its own statement, the district expressed optimism about the negotiations.
“The district is looking forward to Friday’s meeting and we have full trust in the (union’s) and (district’s) bargaining teams. We’re confident we’ll find a path forward,” it said.
In school districts, “classified” employees range from paraeducators to food service workers and security staff.
“Certificated” workers are teachers, counselors, librarians and others who need a certificate to do their jobs.
SEIU 1948 Public School Employees of Washington represents nearly 800 Pasco secretaries, paraeducators and food service workers.
Those workers have this school year to go on their existing contract, but they’re negotiating over wages after an overhaul of the state’s education funding system. The overhaul included a $2 billion infusion for educator pay across Washington.
Richland School District also still is bargaining with its classified employees.
In Kennewick, five classified employee groups have reached agreement, while secretaries and paraeducators still are bargaining.
“We continue to see progress in bargaining sessions and are optimistic that agreements will be reached soon,” said Doug Christensen, assistant superintendent of human resources, in a statement.
All the districts settled with their teachers unions over pay this summer.
In Kennewick, teachers approved a new salary schedule that covers the final year of their existing three-year contract.
The new schedule includes an average raise of 9.3 percent.
In Richland, teachers are getting a bigger raise — 22 percent over three years.
Pasco teachers’ raises range from 10.9 percent to 16.9 percent, with the average at 11.2 percent.
A disparity in state money provided to the districts accounts for some of the difference in the raises. While Richland got extra “regionalization” money to make up for higher cost of living, the Kennewick and Pasco school districts didn’t.