Thursday, July 12, 2012

Common Sense Fails in yet Another Arbitration Award

Q: When is a “past practice” not considered a past practice?
A: When it involves the NFT and an Arbitrator.

For as long as anyone can remember, elementary music teachers participated in up to two evening choral concerts each year with their students. The District believed participation was an expectation of the teachers’ jobs especially since music teachers were given time during their work day to prepare students for these concerts.

During the 2010-2011 school year, in the midst of a NFT-mandated Work-to-Contract (WTC) action, one such music teacher advised Administration that she would not attend her school’s evening concert. Administration said that she was required to do so, and as a result the Union filed a grievance, saying that attendance was not mandatory because that would interfere with the right to "work to the contract." The NFT also insisted that if attendance is required that there must be additional compensation for teachers.

It should come as no surprise that the Arbitrator found in favor of the Union, even though he admitted he “recognized that the teachers herein spend considerable time preparing the students for the evening concerts and that it makes little sense those same teachers could then unilaterally decide to forgo the concert.” Yet he concluded that the teachers were not obligated to attend evening concerts unless they are paid an agreed upon stipend.

The District is appalled at the result of this arbitration decision, which along with several other recent awards are completely one-sided in favor of the NFT. Such union-centric decisions make it extremely difficult to put kids first, which remains our guiding principle.

Now more than ever, the Board is convinced that we must stay the course at the bargaining table in order to ensure that the District’s needs are met. We cannot rely upon arbitrators to help us with common sense decisions, so we will help ourselves by holding firm in negotiations and seeking the changes that are essential for the future of Neshaminy.

Click here to read the Arbitrator's award.