Friday, August 18, 2006

Oh No, Not Again....

It completely crept up: it's negotiation time again with our Catholic high school teachers' union here in Philly....

Suffice it to say, contract season always makes for good entertainment.

While our high school teachers are unionized, the elementary teachers in the parochial schools are not. This once led two friends of mine to get a massive petition signed, which they placed in the sedia gestatoria as Pope Paul VI was carried into an audience. The appeal led to a round of heated phone calls between Rome, Washington and Philadelphia... but after 30 years, still no union.

For the high school teachers, however, word is that there's "no contract in sight" three weeks before the start of classes.
Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers, described ongoing negotiations with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the union’s monthly newsletter.

“Contract talks … have produced very little in the way of a settlement,” Schwartz wrote. “I am not optimistic, at this point in time, that the ACT team will be able to bring back an acceptable contract to the members.”

But Schwartz’s memo said there has been no progress on any major issues, including salaries, medical benefits and an early retirement benefit that allows teachers with 25 years of service to retire at age 55 and receive healthcare coverage until age 65.

Three years ago, the teachers hit the picket line for 10 days over similar issues. It was the longest strike ever by Catholic high school lay teachers in Philadelphia archdiocese history, officials said.

“The ACT team continues to argue strongly to keep punitive and penalty-driven, anti-teacher, anti-union proposals out of the contract,” Schwartz’s letter said. “At the same time, we are working extremely hard to protect existing language, quite a bit of which has been a part of the labor-management agreement for decades.”

The zipper clause also has re-emerged as a stipulation from the archdiocese, Schwartz previously said. It would eliminate any practices that aren’t written into the contract, thus “zipping up” the contract, she said.

For example, teachers could previously return from maternity leave and apply for another type of leave, including child rearing or academic leave. That practice was an unspoken understanding, and there will be no such agreement with the zipper clause wording, Schwartz said.

It is unclear what else the union is asking for in this contract.

Catholic high school teachers start at an annual salary of about $31,700 a year, average roughly $45,000 and top out at $61,390 a year.
As always, stay tuned.