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Buffalo teachers union rejects School Board’s offer of 10 percent raise

The Buffalo Teachers Federation unanimously rejected the Board of Education’s latest contract proposal, which called for a 10 percent increase in teacher salaries.

The BTF called the district’s offer “insulting and demeaning.”

“Teachers were furious, angry and insulted when they saw the district’s contract offer. It was like a slap in the face,” BTF President Phil Rumore said.

BTF leaders said the district’s offer was less than a 1 percent increase each year over the 11 years teachers have been without a new contract.

“Buffalo teachers are $20,000 behind their colleagues in other districts, which is a $600,000 loss in lifetime earnings and a $10,000 a year loss in retirement benefits,” Rumore added.

The district’s offer also demanded 10 percent to 20 percent teacher health care payments for decreased health care benefits, an increase in the workday, a 20 percent increase in the workload and other cuts in teacher benefits.

The BTF did not respond to the bulk of the district’s proposal because union negotiators stated that the wage proposal was not sufficient to secure an agreement, said Nathaniel Kuzma, executive director of labor relations for the district.

“Our offer is reasonable with a total compensation package that is competitive with other districts in the region and benefits that are in line with what other districts in the region provide to teachers,” Kuzma said.

Superintendent Kriner Cash has been given the authority to force certain contract terms at 20 city schools in receivership – like lengthening the school day and year, requiring teacher training and making staff changes based on merit instead of seniority. The changes can be made at the schools without the approval of the teachers union, which significantly cuts into its power.

The next step for BTF is to hear from the School Board on the timing to resume negotiations, Rumore said.

The district’s negotiating team plans to meet with Cash next week to discuss strategy on how to proceed, said Kuzma.

Attorneys for the district plan to meet with the School Board on Feb. 10 to keep members apprised, Kuzma said.

“Then we’ll have a more clear vision of what our next steps are,” Kuzma said.

The school district’s recent contract proposal included a 10 percent increase in teacher salaries. Teachers also would receive a 1 percent increase, plus step increases of 2.5 percent in each of the next three years of the proposed four-year contract. Teachers who work at least 160 days during the 2015-16 school year would be eligible for onetime payments ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on their pay-step level.

Also, the district’s proposal increased starting salaries for new teachers in the 2016-17 academic year.

In addition, active employees would have paid 10 percent of the cost of premiums for their health insurance, and if the agreement had been ratified, new hires would have contributed 20 percent of premium costs. Future retirees would have contributed the same as active employees, effective July 1. The district also proposed dropping the policy rider for cosmetic surgery.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com