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Union Prez Optimistic On Contract
by Melissa Bailey | Oct 18, 2013 1:53 pm
As an initial deadline passed, teachers union President Dave Cicarella said he remains optimistic that he will strike a deal with the school district on a new labor contract before arbitrators step in.
The New Haven Federation of Teachers did not reach a deal with management on a new contract before a deadline Thursday that was set by state law.
That triggered the beginning of a binding arbitration process for the next contract covering some 1,800 teachers in city public schools. In binding arbitration, a panel of three arbitrators hears both sides and dictates the terms of the contract.
Though the deadline has passed, the two sides still have until Nov. 11 to settle an agreement on their own, bypassing the arbitration process, according to schools Chief Operating Officer Will Clark. Both sides said they are optimistic they can do so.
“We’re pretty confident we’re going to be able to settle this outside of arbitration,” Cicarella said. “We’re not miles apart, and there aren’t any dealbreakers that we can see.”
“We’re much closer Friday than we were Monday,” he added.
“The best deals are struck by the parties, at the table, in good faith,” said Clark. “That’s certainly our goal here, and that’s certainly been our history with this union, and that’s why both sides are optimistic of the possibilities to achieve that.”
The current teachers contract, which runs from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014, introduced major changes that cleared the way for Mayor John DeStefano’s school change drive. Now both sides are working on a new agreement that will likely include a new way to reward high-performing teachers using a $53 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant. Issues on the table include the length of the school day and how to define the roles of non-instructional staff in the union, such as guidance counselors, school psychologists and social workers, according to Cicarella.
The two sides did not reach an agreement by Thursday, automatically triggering the beginning of the binding arbitration process, Clark said. Clark said the process will now unfold in this way: “We pick our arbitrator. They pick their arbitrator. Then we select a neutral [arbitrator]. Then we select dates.”
“We’re using that process to pick dates that are as far out as possible so that we have the opportunity to continue to talk,” Clark said.
To approve the contract, Cicarella’s members must ratify it by a simple majority vote.
Cicarella said he hopes to hold a vote with his membership during the week of Oct. 28.
Trade Union Strikes Deal
In other news, the school board Tuesday approved a new contract for the trades union, an 11-person group that does small jobs around the schools, such as fixing cabinets and broken pipes and installing interactive whiteboards in classrooms. Clark said the five-year contract is retroactive to July 1, 2012.
Union members are locksmiths, painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and steamfitters. They all make the same wage, $31.78 per hour. Under the new contract, they’ll get an immediate 2 percent raise, followed by 2 percent raises for three more years, according to Clark. Balancing those wage increases, craftsmen now have to pay more for their retirement benefits: Their pension share is going up from 7 percent to 9.5 percent by July 2016. They are also switching health care plans, following similar changes made by AFSCME Local 3144, the city management union.
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