Brick school officials recently approved pacts with two of the labor unions that represent its employees, with the agreements having been unanimously adopted by the board at its May meeting.
The most major negotiation was with the Transport Workers Union, which represents employees in several fields, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, maintenance workers and custodial workers. As school districts across the nation have struggled to attract employees – especially bus drivers – most have increased salaries, which is reflected in the new, three-year TWU contract.
“We had a lot of people in that union making below minimum wage, and obviously that has come up,” said Board President Stephanie Wohlrab. “We didn’t do the typical contract in the first year. We looked at how we would go about increasing those starting salaries.”
The salary for a bus driver in the Brick district will move from $17 per hour to $24 per hour. All employees received at least a $400 raise, with an employee’s total increase being calculated by multiplying the number of years a person worked for the district by $20. For the second and third years of the contract, increases of 7 and 6.5 percent, respectively, were included.
The creative method of determining salary increases during the first year was aimed at compensating long-term employees whose salaries remained low.
“You had people who were in the district for a very long time – people who have been here 40 years, 20 years – getting their first increase to the minimum,” said Wohlrab, adding that Brick’s new salary for drivers is not the highest in the region.
“Quite honestly, at the end of this, looking at the numbers, they are being paid like the professionals they are,” she said. “This was a good and fair contract for all involved. It fixed a lot of years of staff members being underpaid, and it showed gratitude and appreciation for a group of individuals we could not function without. Without them, the district doesn’t run.”
A smaller agreement was reached with the Brick Township Education Association, which represents the district’s teaching staff and some support staff members. The sidebar agreement raised the salaries of occupational therapists and speech therapists during summer the summer when they continue to work. The salary will rise to $60 per hour from $49 per hour, but officials say the district will spend less under the new contract since employees will be hired directly.
“Currently, we’re spending $75 an hour through an outside group that hires them for us, so that was a savings to the district,” Wohlrab said.
Teachers who take a summer position will see an increase starting in 2023, as well as aides, known as paraprofessionals. Teachers’ salaries will move from $41 to $51 per hour, and paras will earn $21 per hour, from the previous $19.
“It’s just to stay competitive in the area,” said Wohlrab.
Another change to the teachers’ contract would allow employees under the agreement to utilize the state employee health benefits plan rather than the district’s plan, which can be more expensive.