By Steve Tawa and Noel McLaren
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The announcement to cancel the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ contract with the SRC was met with screams.
“Shame! Shame, sneaky shame,” shouted one angry union member in the crowd. “Is this a way to build trust?”
In the sweeping, unilateral move, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission made the announcement Monday that it was imposing new health care terms on the city’s unionized public schoolteachers, effectively canceling its contract agreement with the teachers’ union.
Saying the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has not shared in the sacrifices that other school district employees have made — including blue-collar workers and principals — School Reform Commission chair Bill Green said the SRC is exercising powers given to it by state law to modify the teachers’ contract.
“We will take what we believe to be the most fair and least onerous of poor choices,” Green (at left in photo below) said. “Employee contributions to health care will change.”
Green says no wage reductions are being implemented, but PFT president Jerry Jordan says the SRC wants employees to contribute 10-13 percent of the medical plan premiums.
“I don’t care how you wrap it up, that’s going to be a cut in pay,” Jordan says. He also says PFT members were blindsided.
“What happened this morning at the SRC meeting was the perfect example of the total, total disrespect for the teachers and other school employees who work in the school district, the people who are spending thousands of dollars out of their pockets to educate Philadelphia’s children,” said Jordan.
Green says that will enable the SRC to redirect $44 million this year and nearly $200 million over the next four years to the district.
“The concept that they are surprised by this is laughable,” he responded. “When I was first appointed to the SRC in February, I said that we would take unilateral action and impose terms if we could not meet an agreement with the teachers union.”
Jordan says union lawyers will fight it in Commonwealth Court, arguing the contract terms should remain status quo.
“When there is not a successor agreement, everything in the contract is frozen.”
Jordan says the hastily arranged special meeting of the SRC with minimal notice was ‘cowardly;’ he says it was an attempt to avoid public scrutiny.
“Our members are spending thousands of dollars out of their pockets to buy paper, something as basic as paper, for their classroom. That’s ‘shared sacrifices’ that they don’t complain about,” said Jordan.
Stay tuned to KYW Newsradio 1060, CBS3, and CBSphilly.com for updates on this developing news story.