Strike by Phila. Workers Ends; Rescinded Raises Still at Issue
The Philadelphia School Board and 4,000 maintenance workers and bus drivers last week agreed to a contract that will give the workers a 5.75-percent raise over 10 months.
But one of the three-week strike's biggest issues--an earlier contract agreement that was rescinded by the board--awaited court action.
In the new contract, the board and the union agreed to let the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court decide whether the workers are entitled to a 10-percent raise in a previous contract that was rescinded during a city budget crisis.
The new contract, which is retroactive to last Sept. 1, was ratified by a 6-to-2 vote by the board and by a voice vote at a meeting of 2,500 union members.
Mayor William Green said at a press conference last week that the new contract is too expensive. The city is responsible for about 40 percent of the board's $600-million budget, a district spokesman said.
Since the strike started on Feb. 2, all but 43 of the city's 267 public schools have been open, the spokesman said. Students in 35 of the closed schools attended nearby schools.
Workers were returning to work after the board approved the new pact last Thursday, but the schools heated with coal-fired furnaces were not expected to open until this week.
The main grievance of Local 1201 of the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers was the rescission of a 10-percent pay raise included in the second year of a two-year pact that expired last Sept. 1.
The union on Feb. 19 overwhelmingly rejected a compromise raise of 6-percent for that contract--identical to a pact the teachers accepted--proposed by Common Pleas Judge Stanley Greenberg.
The union won back the raise in the Common Pleas Court, but the state's Commonwealth Court later decided in favor of the district.
Because most of the school district's bus service is contracted, said Elliott Alexander, spokesman for the district, pupil transportation was unaffected by the strike.
Teachers in Harmony, Pa., meanwhile, entered the second week of a strike last week. Talks between the 30-member Harmony Education Association and the Harmony School District were scheduled to resume last Friday.
A 50-day strike in 1981 ended with a three-year settlement, but the contract was never approved because of a dispute over the wording in an insurance clause.
The two sides opened the whole contract to renegotiation, and the teachers were working under provisions of a previous contract until the latest strike started.--ce