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What's behind contract talks between the Buffalo school district and its teachers union?

It’s been 12 years since Buffalo teachers had a new contract, but the clash between the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the Buffalo school district intensified this week.

The union walked away from the bargaining table, held a rally outside City Hall and scheduled a meeting of all its teachers on Oct. 17.

Here's a look at some of the key bargaining issues and where each side stands:

Wages: Teachers haven’t had a raise since 2004, although most still receive annual “step” increases based on their years of service.

The district offer: A 10 percent pay hike upon ratification of the contract, followed by a 3 percent increase the next year; a one-time bonus from $2,000 to $7,000 based on seniority; and a $2,300 lump sum to teachers who retired since the end of the wage freeze in 2007. Starting teacher salaries should be increased to attract new teachers to the district.

The union: A 10 percent hike after 12 years is unacceptable considering the proposals for a longer day and school year. Salaries lag behind other districts. Increases should also go to teachers in the middle and at the end of their careers. Differs with the district over how much teachers should receive in bonuses, or back pay.

Health Insurance: The district pays 100 percent of teachers' health insurance.

The district offer: Teachers should pay 10 percent of their health insurance – roughly $1,900 a year for a family plan and $852 for an individual plan.  The controversial cosmetic surgery rider would be eliminated upon ratification of the contract. Future retirees also would contribute 10 percent and go on Medicare when of age.

The union: Teachers can pay some dollar amount toward their health insurance, but not a percentage and not the 10 percent proposed. Agreed to get rid of the cosmetic rider.

Attendance incentive: Buffalo teachers receive five personal days and 12 sick days, but the district is concerned about teacher absenteeism and abuse of personal and sick time.

The district offer: Teachers would be eligible for a bonus of $2,500 for perfect attendance with smaller monetary incentives for missing fewer than five days. The proposal is negotiable.

The union: Among the objections, not all teachers would qualify, including women on leave with children and those who use personal days for religious holidays.

Instructional time: District wants to modify the school day and year for added instructional time.

The district offer: Change the school day to 7 hours and 30 minutes, up from 6 hours and 50 minutes. Bump up the number of school days by two, to 188. School year would run from Sept. 1 to June 30.

The union: Calls the proposal unsuitable based on compensation offered by the district. Not convinced added instructional time would do any good without first addressing over-crowded classrooms.

Other:

The district wants full control over transferring teachers. Transfers are now based on teacher seniority.

The union wants the district to lower class sizes across grade levels.

The district wants to reduce personal days to three from five.

The union wants district to address caseloads for guidance counselors, social workers and attendance teachers.

 

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