Philadelphia school union fails to get deal on concessions

Posted: June 17, 2012

George Ricchezza, president of the union that represents 2,700 blue-collar workers in the Philadelphia School District, said Friday afternoon that the union's offer of up to $25 million in concessions had failed to produce a deal with the district.

The two sides had been meeting over several days but left Friday night with no agreement.

The district's demands have been "a moving target," Ricchezza said — as low as $15 million and as high as $50 million. School officials have said they need millions in givebacks from unions, plus $50 million in savings through "modernizing" transportation, custodial, and maintenance services.

Every member of 32BJ, SEIU Local 1201 — including building engineers, cleaners, mechanics, and bus aides — has been issued a layoff notice. The first workers would be let go July 15 if no settlement is reached.

Ricchezza said he had been rattled by news, first reported in The Inquirer, that the School Reform Commission was lobbying in Harrisburg for legislation that would give it the absolute right to cancel union contracts and impose terms on workers. Those lobbying efforts came to a halt when members of the Philadelphia Democratic House delegation, furious that they were kept in the dark, confronted the SRC.

"That just puts a lot of doubt in our mind over whether we're going to be treated fairly," Ricchezza said.

Still, he said he believed a deal would be reached.

"We're just doing everything we possibly can to get them the money that they need to operate schools," Ricchezza said. "Let's get a deal done so we can move on for the children of Philadelphia."

Ricchezza declined to speculate on what would happen if the deadline passed with no agreement. The two sides plan to resume talks on Monday.

Contact Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.

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