The school district leveled big threats at its five labor unions this spring, demanding $75 million in givebacks by today or it would cancel their contracts.
The unions' reaction? Good luck with that.
As the deadline arrives today, the district admits that there won't be an apocalyptic cancellation of contracts for teachers, school police officers, cafeteria workers and others.
Seeing how the district has gotten nowhere with most of the five unions, it'll allow more time to reach a resolution.
Union leaders, meanwhile, say that they've given enough and that there's been "no movement" to meet the district's requests.
"I'm not even going to focus on that," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the district's largest union. "We'll find out how much they respect their members or rather how much they disrespect their members."
Michael Masch, the school district's chief financial officer, said yesterday that the district has been in "encouraging" talks with two of its unions but that it's still too early to say how much the district will be able to get back.
And even if the rest of the unions don't agree to renegotiate the contracts by today, he said the district has some time to negotiate the agreements. But the district can't wait too long, he said.
"If we don't get savings because the unions don't agree to lower wage and benefits for our employees, we will have to cut something else," he said. "The later it goes, the harder it is."
Two levels of pay increases due to PFT members don't go into effect until January, Masch said, adding that the district will save $30 million if the PFT forgoes both sets of raises.
The district has already laid off more than 3,400 workers to help close a $629 million budget hole. The district says it will have to layoff about 111 workers for every $10 million that it doesn't get back from the $75 million target.
A district spokeswoman added that officials would rather that both sides come to an agreement but didn't rule out taking a firmer stance.
"The district does not want to make these further cuts or to recommend the use of the SRC's powers [to cancel contracts] . . . but the district has no other options to resort to without the cooperation from the unions," said the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Childs.
Union leaders say they're unmoved. "If the district makes a silly decision, we'll deal with that when that occurs," Jordan said.
District officials have asked unions to consider a combination of a one-year pay freeze, furlough days, forgoing an "across-the-board 3 percent pay increase due to teachers on Jan. 1, and forgoing a 4 percent to 8 percent "step increase" due to about half of the district's teachers with 10 years of service or less on Sept. 1.
The district is also hoping to get $29 million from the unions to cover the increases in health-care costs, which are now $300 million.
Union leaders say that they're ready to duke it out in court and that a strike could be possible.
"They're idle threats. We'll see what happens," Michael Lodise, president of the school police union, said of the possible SRC action against them. "We'll probably end up in court."