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Pay dispute continues between Great Falls Public Schools and office staff

Great Falls Public Schools office staff said district leaders made no counter offers during a recent mediation session.

The Great Falls Association of Office Personnel has been without a contract since the end of June. The union is at odds with the school district over pay. The parties met for a first mediation session in late October.

Shelli Lavinder Schwalk with the Montana Federation of Public Employees has been working with office staff through their negotiations. She said the workers were disappointed the district didn’t revise its original offer from early July of a 64 cent hourly increase.

“It also feels to them like they’re not valued by the district,” Lavinder Schwalk said. “What we’re asking is to prioritize the clerical staff as we go into bargaining.”

Great Falls Public Schools superintendent Tom Moore in an email said the district is operating in the red, and that the offer is higher than any they’ve made in the last decade for office personnel. He said the district values the staff and has to work with the budget it has.

Lavinder Schwalk said the staff is asking for a pay raise to bring them in line with other double-A districts in the state. The Montana Federation of Public Employees said those districts pay office staff on average $2.77 more per hour than those working in Great Falls. Pay tops out at less than $20 per hour for late-career office staff in the district.

A second round of mediation is set for later this month. The office union said it will explore authorizing a strike if no progress is made.

Updated: November 9, 2023 at 9:10 AM MST
This story has been updated to include comment from Great Falls Public Schools superintendent Tom Moore.
Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

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