Hell Must Have Frozen Over;
by James Eterno, Chapter Leader, Jamaica HS; Executive Board Member, HS Rep.
UFT Won't Accept More Extended Time in Next Contract but All Other Givebacks will be Considered
A little over a year ago when Teachers for a Just Contract and ICE wanted the UFT leadership to hold the line and demand that all offers to add time to the school day or year should be rejected by the Union, the UFT leadership blasted us. Unity Caucus at the time put out literature entitled "Hell Will Sooner Freeze Over" saying that the UFT delegates have no right to tie the hands of the Negotiating Committee. Unity stated in their December 2004 leaflet: "Placing prior constraints on the negotiating committee is a blatant attempt to usurp the rights of UFT members to make the ultimate decision on what they will or won't accept in contracts."
Fast forward a little over a year and now the leadership has completely reversed its position as they recently passed a resolution at the Executive Board and the Delegate Assembly that says the UFT will not accept any offer in the next contract that adds extra time to the school day or year. The leadership has adopted the TJC-ICE position that extending the school day or year should be non-negotiable issues, but it's a little late, isn't it? A year ago hell would have to freeze over before there could be prior constraints on the negotiating committee but now it's ok to tie its hands when it comes to time. Forgive us for being a tad cynical.
A quick look back at the 2002 Fact Finding Report that led to the first extension of the school day shows that the UFT implicitly put extending the school day on the bargaining table, not the city. Part of the Report says, "While no proposal was made by the UFT, its arguments seem designed to invite the panel to recommend that any above the pattern increases be funded through extending the work day for teachers."
It's all good and well that the UFT leaders have come around to our position on extended time, however when our friends at TJC recently proposed that the UFT reject any and all givebacks in the next round of negotiations, the UFT leadership said NO. It's clear to many of us that the Union knows that the membership is disgusted with the longer day and longer year and so they will not make additional work time an issue in the 2007 negotiations, but all other givebacks will be considered by the UFT.
We believe that we will probably be asked to pay for part of our health care like the transit workers. We also feel that there will be more of these merit pay schemes such as Lead Teacher on the table and look out for more housing bonus plans for certain people to divide us next year. We might be asked to give up even more of our due process rights; maybe there will be a Tier V pension for new hires and who knows what else we will be asked to give back, but the leadership will come back and try to sell the contract by bragging how we don't have an even longer day or a 12 month school year.
Everyone out there should not worry about further extensions of the school day or year. Instead, start worrying about losing significant other parts of the contract.