Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 | 3:21 p.m.
The local school support staff union is calling for an arbitrator to settle its health insurance dispute with the Clark County School District.
For months the Education Support Employees Association has been lobbying the School District to lower support staffers' health premiums, which began to triple for some members in July 2012.
The increases were set in motion the previous summer, when the School District was looking to consolidate its employer health care plans. In that process – which did not come to fruition –insurance plans for the district's 11,000 support staff employees were changed to include the same benefits, such as domestic partnership, offered under the teachers' health plan.
The increased benefits would have forced the support staffers' premiums to jump in September 2011. However, that was averted when the support staff union ratified a new contract in December 2011, conceding to use its reserve fund to offset the premium increases.
That money ran out July 1, when the current fiscal year began, causing premiums to skyrocket.
Premiums jumped from $69 to $242 per paycheck for a married couple. Families with up to five children were shocked to find their premiums increase from $109 to $422 per paycheck.
Union president John Carr has been trying to reopen contract negotiations in an attempt to renegotiate his members' health plan. The union has sent several letters of grievance and spoke before the School Board at every meeting in an effort to get the School District back to the negotiating table.
So far, Carr's attempts have been unsuccessful, prompting his a call for a third-party arbitrator to settle the matter.
"We're beyond trying to negotiate," Carr said.
Carr said he hoped to set several dates for arbitration with the district on Monday, with a final resolution in March or April.
District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said the district had no intentions of going into arbitration with the support staff union. Fulkerson said the support staff union knew the premium increase would happen when it ratified its contract in December 2011.
"The union has no legal ground to (call for arbitration)," Fulkerson said. "We're not going to renegotiate pieces of the contract."
A arbitrator’s binding decision is expected next week for the School District's continuing contract battle with its teachers union. The School District called for an arbitrator to settle its contract dispute with the Clark County Education Association, declaring an impasse in negotiations this past summer.