Neshaminy School District teachers, who have been working under the terms of an expired contract for four years, voted Wednesday to lift their controversial "work-to-contract" job action and to authorize their second strike of the school year.
There has been no decision on whether the 633 members of the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers will go on strike, union president Louise Boyd said in a statement Thursday. Members authorized the NFT executive committee to call a strike "when and under the circumstances the committee decides are appropriate."
Boyd said the union dropped its "work-to-contract" job action to get back to the bargaining table. In the last two years, members were told to refrain from taking work home, arriving early, or staying late. They skipped back-to-school nights and graduations, and declined to write letters of recommendation.
School Board President Ritchie Webb said he was in favor of resuming talks, but none are scheduled.
The teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, and nurses staged an eight-day strike in January over the longest current contract impasse in the state. They are allowed by state law to strike again so long as the 180-day school year is completed by June 30.
Webb said a strike would "inconvenience families, disrupt children's education, and prolong the school year."
The union is required to give the district 48 hours' notice of a strike, he said.
The contract talks have been suspended since January, first for the strike and then for nonbinding arbitration. The arbitrator issued her findings last week, which the school board rejected, 9-0, Tuesday, and which NFT members accepted with reservations Wednesday.
The arbitrator's recommended seven-year contract included back pay, contributions for health care, continued retirement bonuses, and raises in its final four years. The contract, from July 2008 through June 2015, would cost the district about $20 million, Webb said at Tuesday's public meeting.
For back pay, the "award" calls for 50 percent of missed raises and credits for service and education from July 2008, when the contract expired, through June 2012. The recommendation would cost the district $9.2 million, Webb said, with payments spread over three years, but only to current union members.
The union had proposed 80 percent of back pay; the district ruled out any back pay except for educational credits.
For health care, the arbitrator recommended that NFT members pay 10 percent of their premiums starting July 1, 11 percent for the 2013-14 school year, and 12 percent the following year. The union offered 8 percent; the school board proposed 15 percent.
NFT members would get raises of 1 percent for the 2011-12 school year, followed by 1.5 percent, 2 percent, and 2.25 percent raises in ensuing years. The lowest base salary in the expired contract is about $42,500.
Though Webb criticized the arbitrator's finding as "capitulation" to the NFT's demands, Boyd said it was "not a clear victory for either side."
The arbitration was conducted by Rochelle K. Kaplan and a lawyer for each side. They conducted four hearings in February and March, with each side able to present testimony and evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and "offer arguments in support of their respective final best offers."
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