A month after the West Bloomfield Board of Education implemented a 10-percent salary cut for the district’s teachers, the West Bloomfield Education Association (WBEA) is answering back in court.
The WBEA filed a lawsuit earlier this month in the Oakland County Circuit Court against the West Bloomfield Board of Education and the West Bloomfield School District.
The lawsuit calls for a preliminary injunction against the board’s decision to impose the salary cuts and a retroactive step wage freeze, which were enacted at a special Board of Education meeting on March 31. An injunction hearing is scheduled for June 15 in front of Circuit Court Judge Colleen A. O’Brien.
The WBEA alleges in the suit that the district’s administration began unlawfully deducting from teachers’ salaries before the school board voted on the matter, and that several teachers have communicated an inability to maintain their financial obligations because of the cuts.
The lawsuit argues that the cuts are in violation of Article 10 of the Michigan Constitution, which states that “private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation therefore being first made or secured in a manner prescribed by law.”
The WBEA also stated in its suit that it filed an Amended Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) on April 13, alleging that the school board was in violation of the Public Employment Relations Act. According to the suit, a hearing with the MERC is scheduled for July 7.
The lawsuit also seeks damages for alleged violation of individual teachers’ contracts, including back pay, front pay and retirement credit.
The district’s teachers are currently working without a contract after their previous contract expired on Aug. 31, 2010. Numerous bargaining sessions have taken place between district and union representatives over the last 19 months to try to come up with a new pact.
Rick Arnett, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources and labor relations, said previously that without the pay cut implementation, the district would be facing a $2.9 million deficit.
He added that the cut for teachers will be 6.9 percent this year and 3.1 percent for the next school year, bringing the total cut to 10 percent of teacher salaries.
Austin, Michigan Education Association liaison for West Bloomfield Schools, said after the cuts were implemented that the union would be pursuing a legal route.
The district had MERC put together a fact-finding report after two hearing dates were held in October.
The report was released in January and recommended an immediate across-the-board, 10-percent reduction in the salary schedule, which had been originally proposed by district administration.
The report also recommended the implementation of the WBEA’s proposal for an increase in the health insurance deductible to $300/$600.
Prior to the 2010-11 school year, the board approved over $8.5 million in budget adjustments, including cuts of $5.8 million in salaries, wages and benefits, as well as $1.4 million in cuts for elementary, middle school and high school instruction positions.