Why SLC teachers can't collect Christmas bonus

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - Members say it's like a slap in the face: Some school district employees are getting a Christmas bonus but not others. The school board says, the unions were offered the bonus, but they rejected it.

School district administrators say the bonus money is on the table for teachers, but not until they have a new contract in place. Right now, though, those talks are stalled.

St. Lucie County teachers head into the holiday season without a one-time $500 bonus. It is money being given to 300 non-union district employees and administrators.

Classroom Teachers Association President Vanessa Tillman is fuming. "You would think, as leaders and employers of the district, you would want all your employees to have it -- since you have the authority to do this."

Assistant Superintendent Sue Ranew says the district set aside $4 million to award the bonus to all employees -- union and non-union alike.

But, she says, teachers are not eligible until, or unless, they sign a new contract. That offer has been with the bargaining units, but, to this date, they have declined to accept it.

Teachers are locked in a big fight over long term salary and benefit issues, including their chief demand for a five percent pay raise. They say they are not ready to make concessions just to get a one time bonus. "Even though, the monies were offered to us, my people have said, we want something that is sustaining," explained Tillman.

In this season of giving, neither the district nor teachers are giving in to the other side's demands. So classroom teachers can only look on as others cash their bonus checks. "Well, it's not fair, because you have created a divide and conquer," Tillman concluded.

Nothing may change soon as the school board declared an impasse this week. They say they can no longer negotiate with the employee unions since the unions' demands are even higher now than they were at the beginning of the school year.

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