Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Our guiding principle

I told you last week I wasn't going to comment on Mindy Anderson's recent letter in the Courier Times because Board Prez Ritchie Webb had written a response that said everything I wanted to say. Well, his guest opinion appeared in yesterday's paper . . .

In her May 2 letter to the editor, Mindy Anderson, president of the Neshaminy support workers union, once again uses the skin of truth to explain the Neshaminy contract situation. We on the Neshaminy school board believe the public should have access to all the facts in order to make an informed opinion.

Anderson claims that the school board has not considered the financial impact of unemployment compensation in the event of outsourcing. Yet if she were to look at the proposed preliminary expense budget for next year, she would see that money has been set aside for a potential hike in unemployment compensation. And her assertion that we haven't considered the real future costs of outsourcing is absurd, given that each vendor responding to our request for bids has provided a five-year commitment on the cost of their services.

Next, Anderson says that the public is being misled about how many employees will be retained by outsourcing vendors. The board never said that all employees will be retained, but many of the vendors responding to our requests have indicated a willingness to rehire Neshaminy staff. In fact, a transportation vendor (First Student) stated in their official response that typically 90 percent of existing staff are retained.

If Anderson is so concerned about keeping jobs for the rank and file, perhaps she should explain why she isn't willing to make concessions that would have reduced costs for the district and protected jobs at the same time.

Anderson adds that Neshaminy support workers "offered to negotiate a realistic co-payment of health benefits proportionate to support staff wages." The truth behind that statement is that the union has offered to contribute to their monthly health care costs up to 5 percent at the end of a five-year agreement, but in return demanded a 5 percent raise to offset that expense. Not much of a savings there.

Anderson then says "a very convenient clause is embedded in the administrative contract," referring to an equity clause that guarantees no bargaining group will receive superior benefits/raises over another. Why would she complain about that when support workers demanded that their agreement contain this very same equity clause?

What Anderson fails to address in her letter is the toll that the support workers' Rolls Royce health care plan costs the district, the taxpayers, and ultimately our students. What Anderson should be telling us is which student programs she believes should be cut in order to pay for her union's gold-plated benefits package. Of course, she will never tell you that because she doesn't want you to make the connection that the contract demands necessarily mean a cut to student programs.

The one point we cannot dispute is Anderson's statement that she represents the support staff. But we, the Neshaminy School Board of Directors, represent the students of our fine district. And as we have said previously, when confronted with a difficult choice, that we will continue to err on the side of the kids. This has been and will continue to be our guiding principle throughout our negotiations.

Ritchie Webb
Neshaminy School Board President

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