Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time for answers, time for transparency

My Guest Opinion as printed in today's Courier Times . . .

More answers, less deception from Neshaminy teachers union

In the March 31 article entitled "Health plan numbers don't add up," Neshaminy Federation of Teachers (NFT) President Louise Boyd commented that during the last contract negotiation session, union reps "were willing to go point by point and were prepared for hard questions but ... were dismissed." After reading that statement, wouldn't you think that Ms. Boyd was saying that the board was responsible for their dismissal from this meeting? I'm sure that's exactly what she wants you to think, and this is symptomatic of the half truths and deception that has plagued the NFT negotiations from the very beginning.

The truth behind this particular incident is that the state-appointed mediator dismissed both negotiation teams as he had another meeting. So it was not board members who ended the meeting, as Ms. Boyd's comment suggests. Of course, she can say that she never stated it was the board who "dismissed" them, but why not make that clear up front?

We can ask that same hard question of so many questionable things the NFT has done to this point. For example:

* Why does the NFT report a $2.8 million annual savings in one portion of their last offer when less than $900,000 has been identified?
* Why does the NFT report any kind of savings at all when the bottom line offer is actually more expensive than their original proposal?
* How is it possible that after three years of negotiations, the NFT has still not put employee health care contributions on the table?
* Why hasn't the NFT allowed the board to freely implement a cost savings measure of a self-insured prescription plan that has no negative impact on the teachers?

The NFT leadership wants you to know that they still have more questions, even after three years of negotiations. What the NFT leaders fail to recognize is that the public views this strategy as a stall tactic. Members of the public doesn't want more questions, they want answers. And the biggest question of all is which side is truly inhibiting the progress of our negotiations?

In a Jan. 6 article, I told the Courier Times that in order to avoid further instances of he said/she said, I wanted to allow public observers in future negotiations. This was supported by my fellow board members including board President and lead negotiator Ritchie Webb, who in a March 6 article was quoted as saying, "the union should agree to allow a Courier Times reporter to sit in on all future negotiating sessions." You would think the NFT would jump at this idea considering that they have accused the board of sending "conflicting messages" and using "fuzzy math." Instead, the NFT has soundly rejected this idea as exemplified by the following Facebook comment made by NFT negotiator Jeff Dunkley on Jan. 7: "At best, having 'observers' present would do nothing to aid the process. At worst, it would complicate and prolong the process. Moreover, how could anyone actually believe the BCCT would serve as an 'impartial [sic] observer?' REALLY?"

Yes, Mr. Dunkley, after three years, the negotiation process is going so swimmingly, let's not jeopardize the proceedings by letting the public or the Courier muck things up.

Representatives from the NFT will be meeting with the Courier Times Editorial Board on April 13 to share their side of things. I hope the Courier will ask the NFT why it won't agree to allowing some sort of public observation at future negotiations. Another plus would be if the NFT will actually bring some provable data to this meeting. It would be nice to address facts and figures for a change rather than dealing with an ongoing barrage of unsubstantiated accusations.

Each and every time the NFT has challenged the board on its numbers, we have responded not with nasty rhetoric, but with verifiable information. When we ask the NFT for proof of their data, all we receive in return is another Friday afternoon press release that attempts to change the conversation away from the unaffordability of their contract demands.

Plato once said, "They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth." Treating the board and public as the enemy must come to an end. Union leaders can no longer rely on their misleading information and discreet conversations, or dismissing disgruntled parents as a vocal minority hell-bent on union busting. It is time for the NFT to begin answering questions instead of asking them. Transparency would be a good place to start. .


Real World said...


Str8 Shutr said...

When I first posted on your blog last year I thought you were being too nice and I criticized you for it. Now that I've paid more attention to you I see that your actually a pretty tough guy but you just play it all nice and cool. This is a really great letter you wrote.

I'm sorry I misjudged you and I wish you were running for the board again. You know there is a few people saying they will write your name in on election day. I would do the same but I don't think you're in my precinct.