Time to STOP rhetoric and dueling Columns and settle contract.

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In the past few days we have seen dueling columns from the UTL and the Mayor over negotiations. As an involved parent I’m tired of the half truths and the strain and uncertainty the teachers have to deal with. Teaching is tough enough, being treated like you don’t matter for political reasons makes for a less than positive work environment.

The Mayor was a little misleading yesterday.

1) Mayor – For decades, there’s been a long history of divisive and unproductive teacher contract negotiations in Lowell under the direction of Paul Georges, president of the United Teachers of Lowell. This year, we endeavored to change the way negotiations were conducted in an attempt to prevent the same stalemate in hopes of fostering better relations with our teachers and staff.

First, the School Committee voted unanimously to take minutes at the closed-door sessions. We felt this would make the process transparent and ensure an accurate exchange of information. Mr. Georges rejected this basic commonsense ground rule. The committee acquiesced.

GN: The UNION has a 16 person Negotiating Committee, Paul Georges has 1 vote on that board and is the Union President. Ask the Mayor or City Manager when ANY OTHER UNION HAS BEEN ASKED TO NEGOCIATE IN PUBLIC?? This is an attempt to portray Paul Georges has the bad guy….seems Rodney is looking for a new notch on his belt…first Lynch…now Georges

2) Mayor – Second, by unanimous vote, we approved having the city manager and school superintendent negotiate the contracts with full authority. This is the same successful process we use with the city’s other 17 unions. It’s effective, professional, expedites the process, and removes the politics of negotiating with elected officials who are seeking the union’s endorsement.

GN: The 3 person team had no power to approve a deal, they would only bring request back to the full committee. At NO TIME did the Committee take a Public Vote to give up their right to negotiate.

3) Mayor – UTL’s initial two-year contract request, 4 percent raise each year, equals $9.6 million. The city has $3.3 million available.

GN: I am told that originally the Schools had $4.8 million available but they chose to use $1.2 Million to not cut staff or programs because the City would not supply more money and the Manager has admitted he has pulled back $300,000.

I’m also told by multiple sources from BOTH SIDES that the Union wanted nothing more than what the Police received in their last contract which according to the Lowell Sun was this:

As a result of signing on to the use of GPS in police vehicles, patrolmen will receive a .25 percent increase in their base pay retroactive to last July 1.

That increase is in addition to others called for in the contract, which covers July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015. During the life of the contract, union members will see their pay raise by at least 7.25 percent.

In fiscal 2013, which began last July 1, officers will get a 1.5 percent salary increase. In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, union members will receive 2.5 percent salary increases.

The other .5 percent increase in pay over the three years comes as a result of the union agreeing to changes governing employees who are injured while on duty.

Police officers and firefighters found to be injured in the line of duty are allowed by state law Chapter 41, Section 111F, to collect their salaries free of all taxes until their recuperation is complete and they return to work.

Under the new agreement, while an officer is receiving 111F benefits, he or she will no longer be able to accrue time for sick leave or vacation.

The Police were compensated for giving up 111F benefits and for allowing GPS in Cruisers.

GN: If the School Committee is requesting that the teaching day be extended by minutes or that an additional day or two is added to the teaching year, why isn’t there or what is the amount the School Committee is offering them to give something up and add something? Police received .75% increase for those items in addition to 6.5% pay increase.

If Manager Murphy is being honest when he states we want to treat all employees equally and fairly….what’s in it for the teachers to make concessions?

To be fair and “transparent” I will note that in 2012 the Teacher’s agreed to a 2 year contract which gave them a 2% raise in Year 1 (2012 /2013 school year) and a 2.5% raise in year 2 (2013 / 2014 school year) along with very decent “Step Increases” for Senior Teachers.

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They agreed to a 2 year deal that expired 1 year before the Police who signed a three year deal. The Police made out better back then, now is a new day so asking for what the Police received last time after you settled for less, seems like you are trying to make up for your error. The UTL agreed to the two year deal.

We have gone on long enough without a contract and now it seems to be getting personal at least on the Mayor’s side.

I’m now of the opinion Mayor Elliott has decided that he wants to add to his Political Legacy by “Busting the Union and beating Paul Georges…he got rid of Lynch…got HIS City Manager and HIS School Supt without a term defined contract (A MOA is a contract regardless of what he tries to say) and that this Mayor is more intent on going all the way through fact finding which if that happens by understanding is that the School Committee can STOP Negotiating and IMPOSE their last best offer onto the UNION.

Imagine if a Union is forced to add hours and days without fair compensation? Does that foster any collaborative effort? Does it heighten the possibility of a work to rule, where teachers stop supporting things like Chaperoning Proms, writing College letters of recommendations and sponsoring the National Honor Society? Can you imagine a work stoppage instead of classes starting next September?…I CAN!!

The Mayor states they have ‘only” $3.3 Million…fine lets work on that assumption.

Why not agree to a 2 year deal that gives teachers 1% this year and next year and another .25 each year for adding in the extra minutes..drop any demand for extended days and leave all other steps and provisions intact and sign a contract so that the new Superintendent and incoming School Committee can begin to foster a relationship with each other and the Unions?

The School Dept. / School Committee is responsible for any VIOLATIONS they are found to be guilty of in the arbitration process. That money should come out of either the Manager’s Contingency or Law Dept. monies put aside for lawsuits and using the $300,000 the Manager and Council approved but the Manager pulled back without a vote of the council.

Arbitration settlements should be removed from any contract negotiations. It isn’t the Unions fault if the former administration violated contracts YOU agreed to and you had a chance in the arbitration process to stop. You has a Committee did NOT, now you want the UNIONS to suffer because YOU violated the agreed upon contract? How is that in any way fair?

IF as both sides claim, it is about the students and the best interest of the entire system….they will agree to a proposal similar to what I suggested get a contract signed and allow this new Supt. and School Committee to move forward.

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