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Catholic Schools in Boston and New York Picketed

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Union teachers in the Roman Catholic archdioceses of Boston and New York have picketed church officials and called in sick in recent weeks to protest what they say is a lack of progress in contract negotiations.

In both archdioceses, three-year contracts expired Aug. 31, and negotiations have continued over pay and health benefits, among other issues.

In New York, officials said, the two unions representing Catholic school teachers had reached tentative agreements by last week on new three-year contracts. Both contracts must still be approved by the unions' rank-and-file members.

However, officials of one of the unions, the Lay Faculty Association, which represents 300 teachers at 11 archdiocesan high schools, said it still has concerns about the schools' payment of "volunteer" teachers--tutors who receive a stipend plus4room and board.

Last month, teachers at two of the high schools called in sick to protest the slow pace of negotiations. One of the schools was forced to close early and sent students home because of the "sickout," said Nora S. Murphy, a spokesman for the archdiocese, which covers the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, plus the suburban counties of Westchester, Rockland, and Orange.

"I had asked for four items [during contract negotiations] the day before the sickout," said Henry J. Kielkucki, president of the union. Archdiocese officials "said absolutely not."

"I pulled the sickout on a Friday," he said, "and got three of the four items on Saturday."

Under the contract, teachers would receive a 3 percent pay increase in the first year and a 5 percent to 6 percent increase in the8third year, Mr. Kielkucki said.

Starting pay would increase by $1,000, he said, bringing it to $20,000 a year in the first year of the contract.

The top pay rate would be $28,000 the first year of the contract, increasing to about $31,000 by the third year.

In addition, Mr. Kielkucki said, the union would win the right to charge nonunion teachers a representation fee.

Meanwhile, the president of the Federation of Catholic teachers, which represents teachers at 267 parish elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese of New York, said the union had been planning job actions until a tentative agreement was reached Oct. 20.

The union, which negotiates independently from the Lay Faculty Association, had been in disagreement with the archdiocese about bonuses and job security.

"The archdiocese is making it plain there will be a restructuring of the schools" in the future, Margaret Menard, president of the federation, said just before the agreement was reached. "We don't have any protection for teachers as far as job security."

In Boston, teachers have picketed the residence and public appearances of Cardinal Bernard Law three times since September to protest their pay.

The Boston Archdiocesan Teach4ers Association represents 300 teachers at 11 high schools operated by the archdiocese. The teachers have complained about being paid less than their counterparts at area Catholic schools that are independently operated or owned by religious orders.

The starting salary under the union's current contract, which has been extended since the expiration date, is $16,400, said Andy Bechman, the union president. Salaries across the board are $3,000 to $6,000 less than those at independent Catholic schools and $10,000 less than those paid by the Boston Public Schools, union officials said.

In addition to pay, the union and archdiocese disagree about health-insurance benefits.

Both sides declined to comment last week because they were in mediation.

A spokesman for the archdiocese previously told The Boston Globe that church officials are trying to provide a contract that will "provide an education that is affordable to parents and students and fair to teachers."

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