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Contract NEGOTIATIONS Update #3

United Teachers of Northport
Negotiations Update #3
March 11, 2010

On Wednesday, March 11, 2010, Superintendent McDermott informed the UTN that the Board of Education had decided to “go public” with the UTN contract negotiations. She subsequently provided UTN President, Antoinette Blanck, with a copy of the public statement written by Board President, Stephen Waldenburg, which would be released to the local newspapers for publication this week.

The UTN Negotiations Team, in consultation with our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist and attorney, reviewed the document and prepared a response for simultaneous release. The following is an expanded version of that statement.

Negotiations always take place in a confidential environment in order to enable each side to openly share their respective concerns without the glare of public disclosure. This prevents inaccurate and inflammatory rumors from disrupting the process leading to a fair and equitable agreement which benefits the district and the community.

The Northport –East Northport Board of Education has decided to disclose information of a confidential nature at a time when negotiations were just beginning. Of additional concern is the incorrect information of their statement.

The United Teachers of Northport would like to clarify the record of what actually is happening.
Aside from its claim of a projected, not actual, monetary shortfall, the District has never factually verified the amount it claims.
In submitting its initial proposal to the United Teachers of Northport, the Board did not propose an “either-or” situation. At no time did the Board expressly say, “Accept our proposal or we will eliminate approximately 40-50 teaching positions.” Rather, the Board offered what it called “job protection”, not an actual safeguard of positions, as part of its proposal. An “either-or” proposition in the proposal would constitute a violation of the Taylor Law, as a threat, and would have been bargaining in bad faith.
The Board’s inferential notion that the teachers contract negotiations is the reason for its supposed shortfall is preposterous. The Board has many items of discretionary expenditure in its budget to offset any shortfall. In fact, the District conceded to the UTN that it has chosen not to utilize any of its substantial reserves to offset what it sees as next year’s shortfall. To state the obvious, use of some reserve funds would impact the amount of jobs eliminated. What is a “reserve” for, if not to be used at this time to avoid eliminating teachers and some programs as well?

The UTN’s counter proposal was our first attempt at seeking to reach an accord with the Board, given what the Union acknowledges as stressful economic times. Of course, the UTN recognizes that a contract settlement will have a potential impact on job eliminations as the Board should similarly acknowledge that the use of its reserves could greatly lessen, or perhaps negate, the need for job elimination.

Simply put, negotiations on these proposals were ended by the Board after both sides had not even developed a clear perspective of what it would take to reach a consensus. For those of you who have purchased your home, it invariably takes a few offers back and forth before a deal is struck. The UTN was making its counter offer to engender continued discussion with the Board to both avoid job eliminations and secure a reasonable increase in salary, while recognizing our hard economic times.

We too pledge ourselves to continue to meet with the Board to reach a fair and equitable settlement. Nonetheless, we continue to be dismayed by the Board’s precipitous action, at the very start of negotiating, in going public.

Negotiations should be conducted by the parties across the table from each other, not in the press or by public statement.

We will continue to sit with the Board and its representatives at any time of the day or night to re-start the beginning of negotiations. If the Board will speak to us directly, rather than speak about us to the public, we can weather these hard economic times together and reach a reasonable settlement.

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