Thursday, May 31, 2012

Special guest mediator has little impact on negotiations

Meeting #39 between the Board and NFT started off with a surprise guest – at the direction of the Secretary of Labor as requested by Governor Corbett, the Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, William Gross, joined mediator John Cairns for tonight’s session, which lasted a little less than three hours.

The first 30 minutes of the meeting had both sides in the same room with the mediators. Mr. Gross asked the Board why the neutral arbitrator’s award was rejected, to which attorney Chuck Sweet gave several explanations most notably that we could not afford it.

Sweet did note that both sides agreed to 12 items on the arbitrator’s award, and he was hoping both sides could confirm that this evening as a demonstration that there was some common ground.

Gross then turned to the NFT team and asked what was needed to prevent another strike, and their attorney, Tom Jennings, said that the Board needed to change its attitude. Jennings continued on a rant for approximately 15 minutes that included statements such as “the Board only cares about its wallet” and “negotiations are a joke.” Jennings insisted that both sides should be meeting in the middle but the Board has made no effort to do so, and all they do is spew venom.

The most telling comment from Mr. Jennings was “we are going to fix roofs that might leak in three years instead of paying teachers.” Jennings also went on to say that he anticipates the NFT will strike 4 or 5 times.

At this point, the sides split off into separate rooms, and both mediators moved back and forth into private discussions with each group. Much of the remaining 2-1/2 hours was spent with each side explaining its position to Mr. Gross.

Regrettably, very little negotiation took place.

Whether or not the NFT strikes next week is entirely up to them. The next negotiation session scheduled for June 12th will take place provided that the union is not on strike during that time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

NFT to strike on June 4th

Earlier today, Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) President, Louise Boyd, notified Superintendent Lou Muenker of the union’s intent to commit its second strike of this school year beginning on Monday, June 4th.

In reaction to this announcement, NSB President Ritchie Webb said, “I am outraged that teachers would cause potential disruption to our children’s school year and summer vacation. Once again the NFT has shown that whatever it is they are fighting for, it is not for the benefit of our children or their educational programs.”

Mr. Webb noted that the negotiation session for May 31st is still scheduled, however the Board will not negotiate with the union while it is actively engaged in a strike.

The Board President also questioned the logic and timing of the strike. “We have two dates scheduled for talks, and we’re open to having more meetings. I cannot understand why the NFT would enact such a militant action aimed at our kids and their parents when we’ve agreed to continue good-faith negotiations,” Webb said.

As the district begins preparation for a second teacher’s strike, Webb emphasized the need for Harrisburg to take action against the threat of labor actions that disrupt education. “Our children’s education should be everyone’s priority, and our situation should serve as a wake-up call to Harrisburg that anti-strike legislation is urgently needed.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Round of Talks Scheduled

The next negotiation session between representatives of the Board and NFT will be on Thursday, May 31st.

Tuesday, June 12th, has been set aside as a subsequent meeting date in the event the May 31st session yields meaningful progress.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Board Presses for More Negotiations

Despite its disappointment over the recent non-binding arbitration process, the Neshaminy School Board today contacted state-appointed mediator, John Cairns, to schedule further talks with the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT).

School Board President, Ritchie Webb, confirmed the Board's intention to continue pursuing a settlement with the teachers' union by saying, "There isn't a single Board member who doesn't want to get this thing [a new CBA] settled, but we have to keep our costs under control or else it will be the students who suffer." Webb added, "We are willing to continue talks as long as the NFT is."

Answering criticisms from NFT President, Louise Boyd, that the Board's recent rejection of an arbitrator's ruling was "vindictive," Mr. Webb noted, "The entire Board remains mystified why a supposedly neutral third party, who is an agent of the State, would issue a ruling that would force this district to exceed the State's Act 1 mandated inflationary limit; the process is broken."

Mr. Webb summarized his feelings by stating that teachers have taken the Board's stance personally when it really is all about the business of running a school district. "I sympathize with their frustration, but union leaders have yet to show how the District can afford their contract demands," said Webb.

When asked about a possible second labor strike this school year, Webb said, "I hope it doesn't come to that because ultimately it is the children who pay the price, but the Board remains committed to fiscal responsibility and educational results, and we are bolstered by the unwavering support of our community."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Board Releases Arbitrator's Report

The non-binding arbitration process has concluded, and below is the Arbitrator’s report which was issued last week. This report will be discussed during tonight’s public meeting.

NFT Arbitration Award 05022012