NFT 'Hopeful' Arbitration Will Spark Serious Negotiations
The NFT believes that the arbitrator's finding is a "realistic reference point for continued negotiations."
Despite the Neshaminy School Board unanimously rejecting the state-appointed arbitrator's findings, the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers is "hopeful the school board will finally engage in serious negotiations."
"We believe the arbitrator’s award is a realistic reference point for continued negotiations and we remain ready to bargain at any time," NFT President Louise Boyd said in a press release. She added that while the arbitrator's findings were "not a clear victory for either side" the union believes that the report shows that there are many ways for both parties to compromise and end the contract impasse.
Boyd also said that the arbitrator's ruling was " very middle ground."
"We’re still trying to understand why board President Richie Webb continues to say publicly that we have not shown the board how the district can afford our last proposal, or for that matter, the suggested compromise outlined by the arbitrator,” Boyd stated in the press release.
She also said that the union has provided the school board with "detailed presentations" concerning their budgets and in-depth testimony and data during the arbitration process regarding the budget and how the board can afford an agreement "if they were truly resolved to do that."
“Instead, as with the arbitrator’s award, it’s the same old story, their way or the highway,” Boyd added.
“It’s our schools and our students who suffer the consequences of the board’s inflexibility. We’ve shown the board how this can be done. The arbitrator has shown them how it can be done, but they simply can’t see beyond their entrenched position. They seem determined to devalue teachers and break our union at any cost. Ironically, the cost has not come in dollars, rather is has come at the expense of the students of Neshaminy.”
The union's last contract proposal suggested taking money set aside by the board to pay for Public School Employees Retirement System [PSERS] expenses for the teachers and other employees of the district, using money in the district's Capital Improvement Fund and raising taxes to help settle the contract.
Boyd noted that the NFT’s attorney received a request Tuesday from the state-appointed mediator regarding dates on which the NFT and school board could be available to hold negotiations. The NFT has accepted four of the dates offered by the mediator; two in May and two more in June, and now awaits confirmation from the mediator as to dates accepted by the district.
Rumors of another possible strike have been voiced by both the public and media since last Wednesday evening’s NFT general membership meeting, at which members voted to accept the arbitrator’s non-binding award with reservations, and to authorize NFT leadership to call a strike at any time they deem necessary.
NFT leaders said the actions taken at the membership meeting—which included ending the work-to-contract action that had been underway since the beginning of the school year—sent a clear message from teachers that the NFT bargaining team will return to the bargaining table with renewed purpose and with the full support of federation members.
“We certainly don’t want to strike again, but the public should be aware it is a strong possibility if the district continues down the ‘take it or leave it’ path – an unacceptable position to our membership and for the quality of education in Neshaminy schools,” Boyd said in the release.
She noted that the board’s demands for larger class sizes, and its insistence on an end to language ensuring teachers’ professional voice in education decisions both remain in the board’s contract proposal.
“This is not just a financial roadblock we’re facing from the board,” Boyd said.
“Their demands, if accepted in their current form, would indisputably hurt our students’ education.”