New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins and the head of the United Federation of Teachers moved last week to deny reports surfacing in the city’s daily newspapers that the Mayor had asked the union to renegotiate a contract the school board had ratified only the week before.
The union’s denial came a day before the school board and Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez submitted a plan to the Mayor that would cut $57.5 million from the current budget. School officials also presented Mr. Dinkins with an outline of $36.5 million in additional cuts that would meet the $94-million reduction he had requested to help balance the city’s budget.
They warned that implementing the additional cuts would be “nothing short of a disaster for our schools. It will rival the level of disruption that rocked our schools to the very core in the crisis of the mid-70’s.”
The board said more than 4,400 teachers, many of them members of minorities, would have to be laid off. In addition, guidance services, art and music programs, sports, and after-school and extracurricular aces would be eliminated.
Additional cuts would also entail closing school libraries and curtailing AIDS-, health-, and drug-education programs, according to officials.
Given the city’s economic plight, the teachers’ union has come under increasing pressure to give back some of the 5.5 percent wage hike its negotiators won.
“We have not been asked to renegotiate, nor would we,” said Sandra Feldman, president of the UFT “We have no intention of allowing teachers to be made the scapegoat for the city’s financial problems,” she said at a press conference called last week to squelch the rampant speculation.
Lee Jones, an assistant press secretary to the Mayor, also said that Mr. Dinkins had not asked the U.F.T. to reopen talks in the hopes of paring down the increase worked out by the union, the city, and the board.
Although a representative of the Mayor briefed Ms. Feldman about the city’s financial condition, both sides brushed off suggestions that the meeting was preparatory to contract negotiations for 1991-92.
In ratifying the one-year contract, the school board noted its approval was subject to the state legislature’s agreement to funding modifications.
But the union rejects the continprovision. “If the money from the state legislature falls through, [city and school officials] will still be on the hook,” said Neill S. Rosenfeld, deputy director of communications.
Ms. Feldman blamed the conflict on “so-called fiscal watchdogs who ... are not connected to the kids of the city.” Members of the business community and some politicians have said the city cannot afford the contract.
The city is also under pressure from two other unions seeking salary hikes similar to the teachers’.
Initially expressing dissatisfaction with the 5.5 percent offer, teachers ratified the contract 58,000 to 5,900.
A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 1990 edition of Education Week as N.Y. Union Says It Will Not Renegotiate Wage Hike