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Michigan school district and union's contract dispute heats up

Many employees in Detroit, Michigan, rely on employment contracts when disagreements arise from workplace disputes. Unfortunately, even the smallest oversight in an employment contract can completely alter the intentions of the employer and the employees.

A northern Michigan school district and the union that represents some of its staff have sued each other for unfair labor practices. The lawsuits stem from the contract between the two entities not containing details about step raises, or salary increases based on years served, for the district's noon hour supervisors, classroom aides and secretaries. According to the union, the contract should have included language about the pay increases, but didn't.

The union claims that they raised the issue last fall. A director at Michigan Education Association UniServ says they believe the error occurred in the final draft of the contract. He contacted the district superintendent about the missing step increase provision.

The school district and union agreed to the contract in September 2013. The unfair labor practice charges were lodged by the union six months after the contract was signed. The union claims to have voiced concern about the issue months earlier, but the two sides haven't reached a resolution. Recently, the school district also filed an unfair labor practice suit against the union. The district's lawsuit claims that the union rejected a valid contract that its members approved. The superintendent commended the employees impacted by this dispute and expressed the district's desire to pay them fairly. Mediation has been scheduled in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

Settling disputes that arise from an erroneous employment agreement can be challenging. Compensation is an important element when people choose their jobs. Employees or unions may bargain with employers regarding wages, benefits and other employment considerations and then create a contract to ensure that both parties will hold up their respective ends. Unfortunately, if errors are discovered after the contract is signed, the document is still binding until it is invalidated, amended or expires.

Source: ABC 10, "Marquette schools & employee union file unfair labor practice charge against each other," March 26, 2014

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