Proposed pay cuts enrage PFT members

Posted: March 06, 2013

LONGER WORK HOURS. Draconian paycuts. Elimination of breaks.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is looking at a grim future if school-district officials get their way in current negotiations.

And teachers, aides and staffers at district headquarters are livid over the perceived union-busting by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and the negotiating team, some PFT members say - especially, they add, in light of poorly timed pay raises awarded last year to nonunion employees, averaging 10 percent to 20 percent.

From everything that PFT member Rich Williams has heard and read, he surmises that the district is trying to take his money back.

"You work hard for your increase. You work hard and bend over backwards to help your supervisor," said Williams, 75, who works as an assistant manager of student records at district headquarters. He's been with the district for 40 years.

"But if you're a nonunion person, they give raises. What are they trying to do? Break the unions like every other state in the nation," Williams said.

Barbara Morris, 62, whose annual salary is $26,500, said she wants to know why she has to take a 10 percent cut.

"Why are we paying a debt we didn't create?" said Morris, a PFT rep at West Philly's Bryant Elementary.

"Does this affect the top heads who get paid more?"

A frustrated PFT member who spoke on condition of anonymity said the proposals are "about punishing the teachers."

"It appears that the school district is creating job titles and job descriptions that are chiseling away at the unionized labor force, and it's by design, and they're really not negotiating in good faith," the member said.

The contract proposals as leaked last week include the right for the district to outsource PFT work, and propose the elimination of the union's Health and Welfare Fund and its Legal Services Trust Fund.

Cuts in salary would be made on a scale: 5 percent for those earning less than $25,000, 10 percent for workers earning between $25,000 and $54,999, and 13 percent for salaries of $55,000 and over. PFT members wouldn't get raises until 2017, according to the contract proposal. Future hikes would be based on evaluations made by principals.

The elimination of parking facilities and water fountains for staffers were two other proposals that irked many union members.

"Why did they put this in writing if he wants to treat teachers as architects, lawyers, doctors and engineers?" asked another PFT member who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The member was referring to Hite's remarks to the news website The Notebook. "Other professions don't approach things the same way. . . . A doctor doesn't look at his contract to provide beds for patients," he said. "Water fountains, copy machines, desks, books . . . we will absolutely continue to provide them."

District spokesman Fernando Gallard declined to comment Monday.

On Twitter: @ReginaMedina


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