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.