by James Eterno, UFT Chapter Leader, Jamaica High School
According to the April 29, 2008 NY Sun, Mayor Bloomberg will ask for the UFT Contract to be reopened. The City apparently did not gain enough concessions in 2005 so they want yet another bite at the apple by asking that the Contract be renegotiated so that they can fire excessed teachers after 12 months if we can't find a new position. The Sun is predicting a full scale battle. I see no reason to drawn into any combat.
A simple look at Article 32 of the Contract should end the discussion. It says, "This Agreement and each of its provisions shall be effective as of October 13, 2007, and shall continue in full force and effect through October 31, 2009. Negotiations for a subsequent Agreement will commence no sooner than April 30, 2009 upon request of either party filed two weeks in advance or as otherwise mutually agreed." Since it is not April 30, 2009, there is no valid reason why the UFT should consider new Contract negotiations at this time. No mutual agreement should mean no new negotiations.
Furthermore, for the City to even ask for the issue of firing Absent Teacher Reserves to be raised again is a foolhardy move that could easily be considered bad faith. The fact finding panel who made the disastrous recommendations that formed the basis for the punitive 2005 Contract agreed with the UFT on the ATR issue. Here is the actual language: "Fourth, the City/DOE has recommended that an excessed teacher who does not find a new position within 18 months of being excessed be terminated from the system. We specifically reject this proposal." Specifically rejecting a proposal is pretty strong language from arbitrators who obviously favored most of management's giveback demands such as taking away our ability to grieve letters for file, forcing us back in the cafeteria and halls, lengthening the school day and school year, weakening due process, etc... Even after the Contract expires in 2009, there would be no reason to entertain the city proposal as the Taylor law would keep our existing Contract in place until we have a new one.
Additionally, civil service law would have to be altered and I don't think other unions in New York State would be eager to see a change to allow ATRs to be fired as it would set a horrible precedent. If the UFT agreed to amend the Contract so we could be laid off after 12 months of being in excess, the entire labor movement's principle of last hired=first fired would be gone. Tenure would mean nothing. Chancellor Klein could close or reorganize virtually every school. Our rights would basically disappear. As a dissident who has often been critical of the UFT leadership, even I have confidence that Randi would not agree to terminating the ATR's after 12 months or 18 months or placing them on unpaid leave. It should not ever be considered.
There is nothing to negotiate; this proposal should be labeled dead on arrival.