Buffalo teachers rally over stalled contract
Union president calls offer an insult
Union supporters attend a rally Wednesday outside City Hall, where the Board of Education was meeting. Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News
The latest go-round in the 12-year saga over a new contract for Buffalo teachers hit yet another snag this week when the union walked away from the bargaining table and sent swarms of teachers to rally Wednesday outside City Hall.
Bargaining had been moving forward and the two sides met as recently as Tuesday in efforts to reach a new contract, to replace one that expired 12 years ago.
But talks broke down, representatives for the Buffalo Teacher Federation walked out and no future meetings have been scheduled.
The two sides still seem far apart and the rancor spilled over into the Board of Education meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
“Twelve years is too long,” said Philip Rumore, union president. “What is on the table is an insult.”
“We appreciate his fervor,” responded Superintendent Kriner Cash, “but we respectfully disagree that we have proposed anything that would ever be insulting to teachers.”
A few of the main bargaining issues:
• Health insurance: The district is proposing teachers pay 10 percent of their premium.
The union is agreeable to having teachers pay some dollar amount toward their health insurance, but not a percentage and not the 10 percent proposed.
• Wages: At the crux of why negotiations broke down.
The district is offering a 10 percent pay hike upon ratification of the contract, followed by a 3 percent increase the next year. The contract also would include a onetime bonus ranging from $2,000 to $7,000.
In addition, the district has proposed bumping up starting teacher salaries to attract teachers to the district, said Nathaniel Kuzma, the district’s deputy general counsel.
Kuzma called the compensation package proposed by the district “fair and competitive.”
The union, however, is interested in beefing up the middle and upper end of salaries, which Rumore says lag behind other districts.
As for the 10 percent raise, the union argues that teachers have been without a contract for 12 years, which would make for a raise of less than 1 percent a year.
Also, the district’s proposal doesn’t include any retroactive pay, a sore point for the union.
• Attendance incentive: The district’s latest offer proposes bonuses based on teacher attendance to address concerns about teacher absenteeism.
One of the problems with that, Rumore said, is it discriminates against female teachers having children or teachers using personal days for religious holidays.
• Changes in work rules: Among the changes, the district wants to bump up the number of Buffalo teachers rally over stalled contract - City & Region - The Buffalo News: