Accord on N.Y.C. Teachers' Contract Reached
New York City teacher leaders and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani reached a tentative agreement last week on a five-year contract that closely resembles the one union members rejected five months ago.
Delegates from the United Federation of Teachers are scheduled to vote this week on whether to recommend the contract agreement to the union's 68,000 members, who will vote on it next month.
The teachers have been without a contract since October. Union members dealt a surprise defeat to their leadership in December when they rejected a contract agreement by a 5-to-4 ratio. (See Education Week, Dec. 13, 1995.)
Mr. Giuliani, who warned then that teachers could end up with far less in any new package, told local reporters last week that the teachers hadn't received any more or less in the latest round.
But UFT President Sandra Feldman said at a press conference that the new proposal was better. "I believe we have achieved the near impossible--a new package with some significant improvement that still falls within the original economic parameters," she said. "And we did it at a time that the city's fiscal situation seems to be worsening with each passing day."
The key points of the new agreement remain the same as in the original proposal: a 13 percent boost in pay and benefits over five years and a freeze on the pay rate during the first two years of the contract.
This time, however, the agreement includes a retirement incentive for eligible teachers, a provision that would allow teachers to reach the $70,000 maximum annual salary earlier, and elimination of a plan that would have deferred 5 percent of a beginning teacher's salary.
The agreement would postpone until next year a proposal to relieve teachers of nonteaching duties such as hall and cafeteria supervision. Meanwhile, it calls for the union to discuss with school officials the question of who would take over those duties.
Mr. Giuliani made waves last year with a suggestion that the city could fill those nonteaching slots with welfare recipients. Education groups quickly denounced the idea, saying they feared it would create safety and logistical concerns.
Neill Rosenfeld, a UFT spokesman, said that the new agreement made no mention of Mr. Giuliani's proposal, but that a number of different suggestions would likely be considered.
Dissension in the Ranks
Though the agreement will go to union members regardless of the delegates' vote this week, Mr. Rosenfeld said he believed the delegates would recommend passage.
But as union leaders sought to overcome their earlier defeat, they were again badgered by dissenting teachers who found the new contract proposal as disagreeable as the last one.
David Kaufman, the co-chairman of a union caucus known as New Action UFT, said its members saw nothing to cheer about.
"Why would someone opt to work in New York City if they might get a job in the suburbs?" said Mr. Kaufman, who teaches 8th-grade science at Middle School 135 in the Bronx. "The salary is much higher, there's more emphasis on education--and here the emphasis is on day care."
Mr. Kaufman said the several hundred members of his caucus would repeat last year's "word of mouth" campaign to try to defeat the contract agreement.
"We will be in communication with hundreds of schools," he said, "urging every member who votes to vote no on this."