This article appeared in the Bristol Press today. The original article can be read here.

BRISTOL — The Board of Education has been dealt another setback in its quest to outsource school cafeteria services as a judge denied an appeal to stay a state decision that the board must honor its agreement with 53 school cafeteria workers.

New Britain Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman denied the appeal of a 2014 ruling by the state Board of Labor Relations that the school board must honor its tentative agreement with the cafeteria workers’ union.

A request for maintaining the original temporary stay had been denied, so this was an appeal of the denial, said school board Chairman Larry Amara.

“We didn’t really lose anything,” he said. “We lost the appeal to keep the stay in place, but we’re in the same place we were before with the cafeteria.”

Amara said the school board is still appealing the original Board of Labor Relations decision, which will likely not be decided for six months to a year. In the meantime, the school board is in contract negotiations with the union local that represents the cafeteria workers, Local 2267, Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“We’ve said all along that outsourcing is not in the interest of Bristol students, workers and taxpayers,” said Larry Dorman, spokesman for Council 4.

“So we are pleased with Judge Schuman’s decision and its validation of the underlying decision by the state Board of Labor Relations,” Dorman said. “We hope the Board of Education will work with us to continue improving services for the children rather than spending taxpayer dollars on fruitless legal appeals in pursuit of outsourcing.”

In May 2014, the school board voted 5-3, with its Republican majority prevailing, to sign a contract with Long Island-based Whitsons Culinary Group, after months of protests by parents and the cafeteria workers.

The school board had 60 days to void the contract, which then happened in the wake of the Board of Labor Relations’ decision that the school board had previously negotiated the tentative agreement with the union in bad faith.

Last August, Schuman had eliminated a stay of the Labor Relations decision, which the school board Republicans had hoped would allow them to go ahead with the outsourcing while awaiting the court’s final word.

Schuman had said then that the issue was not clear-cut and the court could not say which side was more likely to prevail.

“Tipping the balance” in opposition to the stay, he said, was the reality that the school board chose to enter into a contract with Whitsons “knowing that there was a possibility that it might lose” with the labor relations board and in the courts.

Schuman said school officials must “accept the consequences” of their choice to pursue legal action to overturn the labor panel’s ruling.

Susan Corica can be reached at (860) 584-0501 ext. 1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

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