Negotiations have temporarily stalled as we await a few proposals “ some financial, some not “from the school district. Given the tenor of the times, the failure of any city union to be under current agreement with the city, and our bargaining history with the city, this delay in settling our contract is neither unusual nor unexpected. Although we are not yet near agreement, we have made some progress. All of this leads to our profound dismay at the sudden misinformation campaign recently launched by the superintendent’s staff.
Late last week Deputy Superintendent Michael Goar intentionally misled the Globe into publishing erroneous figures exaggerating the financial gap between the city’s economic proposal and ours. From the Globe piece over the weekend:
“Deputy Superintendent Michael Goar sounds less optimistic on behalf of the 56,000-student district. He said a gulf of about $100 million separates the sides in the contract negotiation. That’s based, in part, on the union’s demand for a 10 percent salary hike over three years and the school department’s offer of 5 percent over four years. Stutman scoffed at Goar’s claim, saying the school department is exaggerating the gap by about one third.”
Deputy Goar Exaggerates Price Tag of Union’s OT Proposal by $29 Million
Here’s the issue, simply. The Globe last week called up both Deputy Goar and BTU president, Richard Stutman, for information. Mr. Goar inflated the gap between the parties at somewhere near $100 million, $40 million of which Goar said, would be the union’s price tag for one hour of daily overtime at the pro-rata (or real) rate of pay. The other $60 million or so could be attributed to the union’s base salary proposal, he told the Globe.
Let’s look at the $40 million first. The school department’s team has proposed a half hour of extended day, not a full hour. We have agreed to that. We have also proposed that the price tag for that time would be at the contractual hourly rate–not at the individual’s pro-rata hourly rate. Both proposals in tandem (the 1/2 hour vs. the full hour, and the contractual hourly rate vs. the pro-rata rate) dramatically lower the cost estimate. Mr. Goar is on the school department’s negotiating team–in fact, he is their chief in-house negotiator–so he surely knew he was exaggerating the price tag when he gave the Globe an inflated cost of $40 million for a proposal that actually costs $11 million.
Spreading Misinformation Unnecessarily Inflames Tensions
The BTU has no interest in creating a public uproar, especially over the spread of misinformation. Negotiations are best done in a responsible, respectful manner. Our goal is to negotiate a contract settlement that is good for children, affordable for the city, and fair to our members. The school district’s putting out misleading information only inflames tensions and doesn’t help us get closer to settlement. What’s more, It’s bad for morale and it misleads people both inside and outside the district. Why did Mr. Goar mislead the Globe and inflame tensions? You know as well as we do: to portray us as greedy.
BTU Privately to Supt. and Mr. Goar: Please Retract Misinformation
After we received word from the Globe that it would report the inflated price tag on overtime, we met privately for over an hour with Mr. Goar and the superintendent and asked them to retract this misinformation. They refused. So here’s where we are. We wish to negotiate responsibly and professionally, but we will not allow the school department to distort our position and, in doing so, do a disservice to Boston’s professional educators. We will therefore respond publicly when necessary to defend our position.
What About the Other Salary Gap of $60 Million? Is it Accurate and Are We Being Reasonable?
On the matter of the other component of the salary gap, the $60 million, we’re not sure how the department got to that calculation. But our proposal for a 2% cost of living increase back to 9/1/10, a 4% effective 9/1/11, and a 4% effective 9/1/12 is both reasonable and responsible. The school department has offered a 1%, 0%, 2%, and 2% over four school years, respectively, with each increase coming in January, not September. Our different positions may approach their claim of $60 million, or it may not. What we do know is that the salary increases sought are not outlandish, given the city’s fiscal health and our own increased expenses.
In negotiating a contract, there is always a gap between the parties–that’s why it’s called ‘negotiations.’ It is our hope, as we have stated many times before, to bring about a contract that is good for students, affordable to the city, and fair to our members.