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New York City teachers prepare to vote on contract
Raises, not concessions!

By a UFT member | April 19, 2002 | Page 15

NEW YORK--A state fact finding panel released its nonbinding recommendations for a contract settlement for New York City teachers April 10. While the panel recommended that teachers be given a raise, it falls well below what the union requested and includes concessions, most notably an extended workday.

Members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) have been working for 17 months without a contract since the last contract expired in November 2000. The panel was appointed last year after the union and the city had reached an impasse in negotiations.

The panel argued that while the teachers did deserve a raise to bridge the gap with the surrounding districts that earn 20-30 percent more than New York City teachers, it also stated that the city should not give raises beyond the "pattern" that had been established in other contracts with municipal workers.

So while the union had asked for a 22.7 percent raise to achieve parity with teachers in neighboring suburban districts, the panel proposed a 9 percent raise over 27 months. This would include 4 percent retroactive to November 2000, with an additional 5 percent 14 or 15 months later.

In addition to this raise, the panel suggested lengthening the workday by an additional 20 minutes in exchange for a 6 percent pro-rata pay raise. The union has indicated that it might accept the extended day. "At first blush, it looks like the parameters of a settlement," UFT President Randi Weingarten told the New York Times.

Nonetheless, many teachers are opposed to any lengthening of the school day. It means that we aren't really getting a raise, but are being paid for extra work. This does nothing to close the gap with teachers in surrounding suburban districts.

While it is true that, on average, teachers in surrounding areas work longer days, they earn 20-30 percent more than New York City teachers. They also have smaller class sizes and better working conditions overall. The extended workday for a 6 percent raise would only bridge the gap in the length of the workday--while the pay gap gets even wider.

At a time when there is already a shortage of teachers in New York City and teachers are severely overworked and underpaid, lengthening the workday is unacceptable. Teachers should say "no" to an extended day and fight for a real raise with no givebacks.

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