Philly teachers told their union is still far from a deal
by thenotebook on Sep 03 2013 Posted in Latest news
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
There was no strike on Labor Day.
Less than 48 hours after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' contract expired, union brass met with the rank-and-file at Temple University's Liacouras Center for an update on negotiations with the Philadelphia School District.
The closed-door meeting lasted about two hours and was attended by about a third of the PFT's 15,000 members.
As the meeting ended and a sea of red-shirted PFT members flooded out of the auditorium and into the sticky North Broad night, two key things became clear:
1) Negotiations between the union and the District will continue as the two sides attempt to bridge what still seems a bitter divide.
2) Teachers will report to work for professional development this week (starting Tuesday), and classes for students will begin as scheduled next Monday.
Facing what began as a $304 million budget gap, the Philadelphia School District has asked the PFT for $103 million in salary and health care concessions. The District wants teachers to begin paying into their health-care coverage (most currently don't) and to take pay cuts between 5 and 13 percent (depending on length of service).
Last week, union leadership countered that it would be willing to present its members with a plan to take a one-year pay freeze and negotiate some concession on health care. Specific details on the latter, though, are still being withheld.
At Monday night's meeting, PFT president Jerry Jordan reiterated this idea and assured teachers that the union would not accept a new collective bargaining agreement that included salary cuts.
In a news conference that followed the meeting, Jordan said he was "concerned about the ramifications in the long run" of asking teachers to reduce pay in order to cover the District's financial woes.
"How are we going to recruit and retain our teachers if we are slashing their salaries?" Jordan asked.
In a statement issued soon after the union's meeting ended, School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that "the current offer from the PFT falls far short of the $103 million in recurring savings our students need and does not include necessary educational reforms."
Gallard said the District planned "to remain at the table" with the union in hopes of reaching a "fair agreement."
On that point, Jordan agreed, affirming that negotiations would resume Tuesday.