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A.F.T. Staff Employees Weigh Proposed Pact

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The agreement was reached early this month with the assistance of a mediator. Members of the union that represents A.F.T. staff employees had voted to strike if an acceptable contract could not be negotiated. (See Education Week, Jan. 8, 1992.)

Negotiators for the A.F.T., led by Albert Shanker, the union's president, had sought relief from seniority provisions that the union maintained were unduly restrictive.

The A.F.T.'s field representatives, for example, were protected by a clause that said all employees working on special projects across the country would have to be laid off before any field representatives, who manage the project staff members.

The staff union agreed to give up the "no layoff' provision, said Rick Kuplinski, a vice president of the A.F.T.S.U., in exchange for contract language that defines both jobs and makes it clear that project staff members will not be used to do the jobs of field representatives.

The provisions reassured union members that management would not be able to replace the unionized field representatives with the nonunionized project workers.

The agreement on seniority rights for the employees at A.F.T.'s Washington headquarters creates a system that gives the A.F.T. more latitude in choosing which employees to lay off, but preserves overall seniority, Mr. Kuplinski said.

Under the "pretty creative" approach, he said, employees will be divided into groups. In the event of layoffs, A.F.T. management would have some flexibility in deciding which employees from a particular group would be let go.

The agreement protects departments with large numbers of new employees from bearing a disproportionate number of layoffs.

The system would replace the current policy, which calls for layoffs to be done by strict seniority.

The proposed pact also contains provisions for giving severance pay to any laid-off employees.

The staff union also agreed to give enough notice of travel plans to allow the most inexpensive tickets to be purchased and agreed to relinquish corporate credit cards. Instead, employees will be reimbursed for expenses.--A.B.

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