Two unions representing OCPS say district is bargaining in ‘bad faith’ to reopen

Video: Two unions representing OCPS say district is bargaining in 'bad faith' to reopen

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Two unions representing Orange County Public Schools said the district is bargaining in “bad faith.”

The teachers’ union filed both a grievance and a lawsuit.

The one representing noninstructional employees said it isn’t ready to go that far but that it still has concerns for employees most at risk.

Content Continues Below

At many schools across Orange County, teachers are planning for the first day of school, but many noninstructional workers have been in the schools all this time.

Ron Polland represents 85,000 noninstructional employees like custodians, bus drivers and secretaries.

A Facebook post shows his concern about the fall. It states “OESPA (Orange Education Support Professionals Association) members have shown up, stayed quiet and gotten the work down.”

But he is concerned that the district said no to requests including daily temperature checks and school bus limits.

“They seem not to be concerned with the safety of our employees,” Pollard said. “We have to have safety procedures starting with the bus drivers.”

The memorandum of understanding is now expired, including protection for high-risk employees.

“Those employees who are high risk due to COVID-19 (65 years and older or with underlying health conditions) may apply for an accommodation with the District and may be approved to work remotely if their work may be performed remotely. Applications for an accommodation must be made through the Office of Legal Services.”

“It’s not that I’m against the schools reopening,” Pollard said. “When you dangle a paycheck in (front of) a low pay employee, either you come to work or don’t get paid. Well I’m going to come to work sick and that’s putting everybody, even the students, in danger.”

The teachers’ union filed a grievance and a lawsuit arguing for safety protections and information on worksites where people test positive for COVID-19.

While some teacher unions in other states are talking strikes, that’s not happening here.

“Under the Florida constitution, Florida employees cannot strike. They even risk losing their pension. Certainly, if they could I would expect that most teachers would in this situation,” said Wendy Doromal, Orange County Classroom Teachers Association president.

As of Friday, 60 employees are on medical relief of duty due to the coronavirus.

The district has not commented on the teachers' union’s assertion that it’s acting in “bad faith,” saying it does not comment on ongoing litigation.

OCPS has said in meetings that it wants to open in a way that is safe for both students and staff.

In an email, the school district said it will confirm a back-to-school choice with parents “who did not make a selection to register their choice and to those who made multiple choices to verify their preference."

Officials said no one will be placed into an instructional model without verification.