Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pardon their spin

From the movie Shrek . . .

Princess Fiona (referring to Donkey): It talks!
Shrek: Yeah, it's getting him to shut up that's the trick!

For more than two years, residents of Neshaminy anxiously awaited an explanation from the NFT of its contract demands. Now with a hired spin doctor on their payroll, the NFT has suddenly become quite talkative. Unfortunately for the public, the NFT's newly-found verbosity offers little more than fluff and smokescreens.

On Tuesday afternoon the NFT issued a highly critical press release which accused District Administration of not wanting to bother making time to discuss educational priorities. Then just yesterday, another NFT statement called on the District to "bring the spirit of compromise" to tonight's negotiation session. First they slap us in the face, and now they want to be friends. A rather curious tactic heading into this evening's meeting, don't you think?

In response to Tuesday's press release, the always-eloquent Dr. Muenker made several very important points . . .

1) The District had already begun work on a strategic plan prior to the NFT calling for one
2) If not for the WTC distraction, the strategic plan might have already been completed
3) Educational priorities should have nothing to do with contract negotiations

Board President Ritchie Webb was less diplomatic in his reply, referring to the NFT's sudden concern about educational priorities as a "stunt."

You can see more reaction to this NFT press release by reading today's Courier Times.

On the heels of Tuesday's statement came another one last night as the NFT challenged the District to come up with another offer. According to NFT President Louise Boyd, "Teachers have already offered two counter-proposals that have included significant compromises ... If school district officials are serious about reaching an agreement, the next proposal needs to come from them."

Ms. Boyd then lists all the NFT's concessions from their counter proposals including:

1) Reducing the cost of the salary proposal, shifting from 4 percent annual raises throughout the term of the contract to a staggered schedule beginning at 2.75 percent.
2) Withdrawing a teacher scheduling proposal, limiting back-to-back-to-back classes.
3) Withdrawing a proposal to embed professional development programs into the job site.
4) Withdrawing a proposal to implement full-day kindergarten, which would be a significant cost saving for the district.
5) Withdrawing a proposal to require reductions in class sizes, saving certified personnel costs.
6) Withdrawing a proposal for co-teaching planning periods, saving certified personnel costs.
7) Withdrawing a proposal to hire additional certified technology teachers.
8) Withdrawing proposed increases in vision care benefits.
9) Proposing increases in employee co-payments for nearly all medical services.

Should I even bother pointing out the fallacies of this argument? Oh heck, why not?

Regarding #1: 2.75% doesn't equal 2.75% - remember the steps? The NFT salary proposal will cost tax payers $11 million just for retro pay, and it will give teachers a 35% pay hike by the 5th year of the agreement. It's completely unaffordable and therefore is no more palatable than their original offer.

Regarding #'s 2, and 4-8: In most of these the NFT has either proposed things that will only inflate the costs of an already expensive contract, or they are asking for things they really have no business asking for in the first place (like Full Day Kindergarten should be a contract issue?).

Regarding #9: This is the one true concession made by the NFT. But what they fail to mention is that due to the implications of the "me too" clauses in the agreements we have with the other labor groups, any cost savings is more than lost. So in essence, this small concession in combination with keeping the Rolls Royce plan will actually cost tax payers more money.

This leaves us with #3, professional development. I actually think ongoing training is a worthy idea. However, training needs are ultimately determined by District Administration, and they can only happen when there is money in the budget to pay for them. So unfortunately for the NFT, this really cannot be a contractual item either, but at least it has some merit.

You can read yesterday's NFT statement by clicking here.

I didn't know what to expect going into tonight's negotiation session, but I was remaining cautiously optimistic given Louise Boyd's recent statements that the NFT was willing to discuss health care. But now reading her latest decree that the next offer must come the Board tells me she has little intention of driving this issue further. She'd rather wait to see if the Board will flinch. I can't wait to read what the NFT spin doctor says about that.


Susan said...

William -

I am a BIG fan of the line by line approach - KUDOS! Given they've now also opted to spend members dues on costly radio advertising, it's best that you and the rest of the Board not hold your breath. We are solidly behind the Board so STAY THE COURSE!

KClarinet said...

The "me too" clause was not NFT's doing, it was the board's. Why didn't the district negotiators hold out for a settlement without one?

JS said...

KC, the "me too" clause is actually a way to save money. The larger your pool of employees, the tendency is to get better rates for premiums. Think of it as buying in bulk.

If you have different sets of medical plans and premiums for different groups it just ends up costing more for each of those plans.

acs said...

"Me to clause" was the most brilliant thing the board did in NESPA contract bar none. Poison pill for all future weak boards to come.

KClarinet said...

To JS:

I don't actually know if the service workers have the same plan the teachers do or not. "Me too" (note the spelling, ACS) as I understand it refers to the percentage of premiums to be paid and the salary increments. Assuming they are all on the same plan, I would think the rates would be the same whether or not everyone were paying the same percentage of the premium themselves.

acs said...

Me TO says they get exactly what the NFT settles for as long as it is better. Period. Don't worry about my typing KC worry about yourself.

JS said...

Well currently the NFT isn't even agreeing to the same plan as the Admins and NESPA, so paying 15% of A and 15% of B still are different than both paying 15% of A.