Teachers say new board demands deadlocked contract talks

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Union claims that new changes seniority, work hours offers stopped progress to new deal

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
Unionville district teachers say that the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education introduced seniority language and a range of new demands at the 11th hour in June contract talks — torpedoing any chance of a contract settlement before a July 1 deadline for healthcare plan enrollment.

The teachers say that “slow, steady” progress had been being made on the way to a new agreement until the school board abruptly changed course — citing that the union was accepting a wage freeze for the 2010-11 school year, longer work hours and offering to pay more of their health care cost. Meanwhile, school board officials are countering that the union was merely cherry picking the proposals, when the elements are highly intertwined.

Earlier this month, the school board made public its reduced salary offer, saying that because the deadline passed, healthcare costs for the 2011-12 year would be higher than budgeted and previously offered raises — offered in May — would have to be cut back.

But now, according to a statement issued by the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association Monday, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education is attempting to get the union to remove seniority language in the new contract — allegedly in anticipation of proposed legislation in Harrisburg that would allow teachers to be furloughed for financial reasons — among a number of issues that the union is questioning whether have been introduced to intentionally derail talks the teachers say had been making progress.

The teachers’ statement suggests that negotiations were largely complete on salary and work rules, with health care the lone stumbling block. The board appears to have a differing view, though.

“It is misleading for the union leadership to say they have ‘agreed to the School Board’s salary proposal’ or ‘agreed to increase the length of their work day’ or ‘agreed to a salary freeze worth approximately $750,000,’ ” said board member Keith Knauss, a member of the district negotiating team. “The union leadership has not agreed to anything yet.  The District and the union are negotiating a comprehensive contract that has 3 basic elements – salary, benefits and work rules.  All three are interwoven and co-dependent.  The contract offer is not an a la carte menu where some elements can be chosen and other rejected.  It’s all or none.  While it might make good press to ‘cherry pick’ the attractive parts of the contract and claim agreement, there is no real agreement until the entire contract is accepted by both sides.”

Although the five-page statement listed, in great detail, where the teachers and school board differ, the proposed changes in seniority appear to have struck a nerve with teachers.

“This issue was presented for the first time after a year of negotiating,” the statement said. “The addition of this proposal suggests that the School Board may not be serious about settling in the near future. Why would the Board demand language concessions that they know could preclude a settlement after 18 months of bargaining? Why would they introduce this item with their July 1st deadline rapidly approaching?”

The UCFEA statement stressed that it would not accept such a change to the seniority provision in the contract — and it notes that the proposed legislation requires seniority to be considered. The statement also said that the union’s stance on seniority is not related to protecting under-performing teachers.

“Please note that this particular seniority issue is not about protecting ineffective employees,” the statement said. “The UCFEA is proud of the work that its members do in the classroom. The UCFEA has, and will continue to, work with administration to address employee performance issues when necessary.”

In addition to the seniority issue, teachers took exception to a number of other issues in the recent board proposal, including reintroducing half-steps for seniority, elimination of the severance bonus, and longer work hours. The teachers argue that pension contributions — expected to spike in coming years — should not be laid at the feet of teachers, who paid their 7.5% annually into fund, while the district and the state paid far lower rates until recently. And as the district gets half of the contributions back from the state, the union objected to the district counting the entire figure as compensation (and issue raised last year by the union).

The district plans a formal response in the coming days, while the entire UCFEA document can be read here.

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12 Comments

  1. UCFSD Budget Math 101

    Assume a total UCFSD budget of $70,000,000
    Assume Year 1 total personnel costs (salaries and benefits) at 71.93% of the total budget (This is Business director Robert Cochran’s estimate for the latest school year including all personnel – not just professional staff)

    Assume 2% average annual revenue growth to the UCFSD
    Assume 3% average annual growth in personnel costs (salaries and benefits)

    School Year Total Budget Personnel Exp. As % of Total
    1 $70,000,000.00 $50,351,000.00 71.9%
    2 $71,400,000.00 $51,861,530.00 72.6%
    3 $72,828,000.00 $53,417,375.00 73.3%
    4 $74,284,560.00 $55,019,896.00 74.1%
    5 $75,770,251.00 $56,670,492.00 74.8%
    6 $77,285,656.00 $58,370,606.00 75.5%
    7 $78,831,369.00 $60,121,724.00 76.3%
    8 $80,407,996.00 $61,925,375.00 77.0%
    9 $82,016,155.00 $63,783,136.00 77.8%
    10 $83,656,478.00 $65,696,630.00 78.5%
    11 $85,329,607.00 $67,667,528.00 79.3%
    12 $87,036,199.00 $69,697,553.00 80.1%
    13 $88,776,922.98 $71,788,479.00 80.9%
    14 $90,552,461.44 $73,942,133.00 81.7%
    15 $92,363,510.67 $76,160,396.00 82.5%
    16 $94,210,780.88 $78,445,207.00 83.3%
    17 $96,094,996.50 $80,798,563.00 84.1%
    18 $98,016,896.43 $83,222,519.00 84.9%
    19 $99,977,234.36 $85,719,194.00 85.7%
    20 $101,976,779.05 $88,290,769.00 86.6%

    If total personnel costs as a percentage of the total budget continue
    to escalate at a higher rate than revenues increase …

    Eventually the entire budget will be devoted 100%
    to salaries and benefits!

  2. Brian says:

    I am sick and tired of hearing about the Teachers Union while the rest of us make sacrifices.. Give me a break, you are off every minor and made up holiday along with the entire summer. Taxpayers should not have to be held captive to any Union. Fire them. Any half decent teacher with morals would die to get an chance to work in USCF School District because of the high quality student which is a refelction of strong parenting involvement.. Start replacing the teachers and or admin staff..

  3. Ray Farrell says:

    The union mouth-piece Ms. Waldie gives me the creeps. This outsider culls our neighborhoods census data to see how much money she thinks our citizens should pay her union.

    She would rather we sold our proud school bus fleet and dump our great experienced drivers so her self-serving union gets all they want.

    Thank god we have a great bi-partisan school board here in Unionville-Chadds Ford who are balancing all the different complexities required while at the same time keeping the PSEA union wolves at bay.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA “

  4. steve says:

    Opinions…go figure.
    As for me, I get to vote for new blood and ideas in November!!!!!!

  5. Ray Farrell says:

    Steve,

    I respectfully disagree that we should vote the school board out in Nov. I believe the members of our school board make a fair and prudent body, just look at many of their recent decisions. 

    Instead I point the finger at the PSEA lead negotiator (Ms. Waldie). She is an outsider union hack who is denying our children an efficient and affordable education as she shreds the fabric of our community. 

    She castigates our fine school board directors and blames others for her continued failures.

    She is hurting our community and our great teachers would be wise to dump her at the earliest possible opportunity.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA

  6. steve says:

    If this situation was a business in the private sector, and the team tasked with coming up with a solution, after 18 months, still didn’t have any resolution, they would be sacked. I say the teachers union should sack their negotiating team and get a fresh one, and the district should do the same. Those “working” on this for the last 18 months have had enough time…throw all the numbers and/or pro/con comments around forever, the bottom line is that both teams have FAILED to find a solution. I sincerely hope the teachers union will get a new team,and the voters will select a new team for the district in November

  7. Turk182 says:

    Yeah…a little disingenuous to suggest that attempting changes to seniority rules, going back to half-steps and so on signals a serious intent to get a settlement, rather quite the contrary.

    Words are fairly meaningless; actions show intent. This current board doesn’t want a deal unless it is totally on their terms; rather than negotiating, they are trying to make a political statement, much as we’re seeing in Washington right now.

    On the other hand, it’s apparent that Ms. Waldie has all of the message discipline of a five-year-old after ingesting an entire crate of Froot Loops. Suggesting a strike? Really? Just when the teachers are starting to get a little sympathy, this was a good idea?

    It is altogether frightening that two groups charged with educating our children can show such poor judgment, inability to see the big picture and frankly, anything like sober maturity.

    You should all be ashamed. The rest of us can just remain appalled.

  8. Keith Knauss says:

    Martha,
    ,
    It is inaccurate to say the “board has stonewalled each offer” .Please remember that a neutral Fact Finder listened to and reviewed formal presentations by both the District and the union during a long day in January. This was done at the insistence of the union. The Fact Finder subsequently made a contract recommendation based on the presentations. The Board “stretched” financially and accepted the Fact Finder’s recommendation. We wanted to guarantee labor peace for 3 years and begin the healing process. Unfortunately, the union rejected the recommendation once before the Board vote and, again, after the Board vote.
    .
    And a short word on changes to our offer – As you mention above, we have been negotiating for over 18 months. There have been changes in the economic environment, there have been changes in state funding and there have been changes brought about by legislation. It would be irresponsible of the Board to ignore these changes when crafting any new offer.
    .
    I hope a settlement can be reached soon. The union’s negotiator’s (Ruthann Waldie) cavalier mention of “strike” and “work stoppage” in the news story quoted above is not helpful.

  9. Martha says:

    I have to agree with fedup. The children were NOT held hostage, events continued even though the board has stonewalled each offer. I wonder if any of the board has even been to a negotiating workshop? To bargain for a year and a half then to dismiss agreements made and bring up a whole new item is counter productive.
    It seems to me by what Mr.Clark said in his letter that the teachers have given in on may of the point of the process with pay freeze, offer to pay more toward health care AND agreement to work longer hours.
    What more do you want them to do? This is an embarasment to one of the finest districts in the state. Let’s settle this so we can begin a fine year of education and heal this community.

  10. Ray Farrell says:

    Fedup,

    The following is from an article published in yesterday’s Daily Local newspaper:

    NEWS

    Union rep says U-CF teachers talking about walkout
    Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    0digg

    27
    By WM. SHAWN WEIGEL, Staff Writer

    The most recent contract offer from the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District has the teachers’ union talking about a strike.

    Speaking on behalf of the Unionville Education Association, Ruthann Waldie, Uniserve representative for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said no endgame is in sight with the school board’s current offer.

    “We have exhausted every opportunity and every strategy, and the only thing left is a work stoppage. There is talk,” Waldie said.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA

  11. fedup says:

    Really, Mr. Farrell. I have been reading your posts for months and all you do is spew ignorance and negativity. NO WHERE does the article state that a strike has been threatened. Throughout the 2010-2011 school year, while the Unionville teachers were vilified in certain local papers and by negative people such as yourself, it was my observation that they handled themselves as nothing less than professional, remaining steadfast in their dedication to their students. Stop throwing out scare tactics by using the word “Strike”…nothing like that has been mentioned on any of the UCFEA endorsed documents. It seems to me that it’s people like you who are conjecturing that are part of the problem and not helping move this issue towards a resolution. It’s fine that you have an opinion, but please, unless you are a direct part of the process, don’t randomly throw words around. It’s not doing anyone any good.

  12. Ray Farrell says:

    The tone deafness and intransigence of the teachers union is astonishing. They hold our childrens education hostage with the threat of strike as they legally extort more money from tapped-out parents.

    Ray Farrell
    Pocopson, PA

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