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Harrisburg school Marshall.jpg

In this Feb. 29, 2016, file photo, students work on an assignment at Harrisburg School District’s Marshall Math Science Academy. (Office of Governor Tom Wolf via Creative Commons)

(Harrisburg) — The Harrisburg School District and its teachers’ union, the Harrisburg Education Association, have been debating a new contract for 14 months with no clear end in sight.

The district’s chief negotiator Jeffrey T. Sultanik said it’s one of the strangest and most difficult contract negotiations he’s seen in 40 years. 

Negotiations have been complicated in part by a grievance filed on behalf of veteran teachers.

The association’s grievance claims new hires were incorrectly placed on the district’s salary schedule, meaning some new teachers were making more than veteran teachers with equivalent experience.

The school board recently voted down a settlement on the complaint, saying it would be too expensive.

Sultanik, chair of education law group Fox Rothschild LLP, said because the district is under a state-mandated recovery plan, it’s working with limited funds.

“It’s my position that the union is imposing an unrealistic condition in the collective bargaining process when we can get this done,” he said. 

Sultanik said the district has offered the union the maximum annual pay increases allowed under the recovery plan, though the teachers have yet to articulate a salary demand.

Union leaders have said the grievance needs to be settled before a contract deal can be completed.

Formal testimony on the grievance before an independent labor arbitrator have not started. 

When reached by phone, union president Jody Barksdale only said there was nothing to discuss as there’s no agreement yet.

Negotiators are set to meet again in early April.