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Retro Pay Stumbling Block in Contract Talks between City and CSA

September 3, 2014
By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—It seems that the outstanding labor contracts that Mayor Bill de Blasio inherited from his predecessor is now presenting the current administration with a new wrinkle, although the administration claims it has settled more than 60 percent of those contracts to date.

Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, the principals union, told a roundtable of reporters at the union’s offices on Tuesday that there is a major stumbling block preventing the union and the city from reaching a new contract.

According to Logan, the city is refusing to pay about 1,900 teachers, who used to be represented by the United Federation of Teachers, and who were or will be promoted to Assistant Principals and Principals between 2009 and 2020 as CSA members, because the city is claiming that they are now in a different bargaining unit. 

But Logan said that regardless of the bargaining unit, teachers, APs and principals work for one agency, the Department of Education. 

“Historically, when you got promoted into a supervisory role, you were always entitled to whatever you earned as a teacher whenever that contract was settled. When a contract that went back a few years was agreed upon, and then you got a new position, you always received that money. But now for the first time ever [the city] doesn’t want to do that,” said Logan.

He believes the new administration overlooked this issue because it inherited over 150 unsettled contracts from the previous administration. 

“I think the problem here is that nobody thought about it, and so it now has come back to be a problem. These are people [teachers] who have earned this money, and they are entitled to it.”

David Grandwetter, general counsel for CSA, noted that the city’s refusal to offer the retro pay to promoted individuals would cost them up to $54,000 in cash. Remember, UFT members were working without a new contract in 2009 through 2011, costing them about 8 percent in raises, and so the contract they authorized this past June includes lump sum retro payments through 2020.

“The UFT contract defers lump sum payments on a five-year schedule. Twelve and one-half percent of that lump sum of retro pay is paid in 2015 and 2017. Then 25 percent of it is paid in 2018, 2019 and 2020. These represent the lump sum in retro catch-up had the eight percent been paid in ’09, ’10 and ’11,” said Grandwetter. “The position the city is taking with us now is that in order for someone to be eligible for any or all of those payments between 2015 and 2020, they need to be in a UFT [title].” 

Logan said the city has told him he shouldn’t worry about this issue because the promoted individuals will make that money up as they start their new jobs with a salary of close to $100,000.

But Logan told the city it’s not that simple.

“The city tries to make this point with me—that if they [the promoted teachers] stay long enough, they’ll make that money up. But I remind them that it takes five years to get tenure as an AP, and if they’re not successful, they lose that money that they [otherwise] would have had as a teacher, [including] the lost AP salary,” said Logan. “The only way they can make that money up is that you have to have the longevity of being there 10 or 15 years."

Logan emphasized there is no other issue but this one that is preventing the union from signing a new contract.

“There are no major issues on the table here to settle this contract, [but] this is a major, major stumbling block to getting this done.”

He also told the city that he couldn’t possibly ask his members to vote on a contract that would negatively affect about one-third of 6,000 members through October 2020, the last day that the lump sum retro payments under the UFT contract are due.

“I’ve informed the city in no uncertain terms that this is the city’s issue and they need to clean it up because politically I would not be able to get this contract ratified with one-third of the people being disenfranchised. I’d be very foolish as a leader to bring something before the membership up for a vote where one-third of the people would then rise up and vote against something that is negatively affecting them,” Logan said.

Logan added that the union notified the city of this issue right after the city reached an agreement with the UFT in May to start discussions. But he said that Robert Linn, the director of labor relations, hasn’t scheduled an upcoming meeting.



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