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Striking New Haven teachers consider district’s ‘last, best and final offer’

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The New Haven Unified School District’s 14-day-old strike might be inching towards a conclusion Friday as union leaders are mulling over teachers’ reactions on the district’s latest contract offer. On Thursday, the district offered what it called its “last, best and final offer” to the New Haven Teachers Association.

The offer is composed of two options, both of which would cost about $10.5 million over three years “and would increase the amount of (budget) cuts required in 2020 and 2021,” according to a news release sent out by the district.

One of the district’s offers gives teachers a 3 percent raise for the 2018-2019 school year that’s retroactive to January and a one-time 3 percent salary hike next year.

The other offer would give them a one-time 4.5 percent pay increase for the 2018-2019 school year and an ongoing 3 percent raise starting in July.

The second offer would also provide for another ongoing pay hike of up to 1 percent if the district can find up to $2 million in additional revenue.

The district’s initial offer was a 1 percent raise and a 3 percent one-time payment, along with an additional rise of up to 2 percent if the district could find an additional $2 million.

The teachers union originally asked for a 10 percent raise over two years but have made adjustments to that offer, and on Thursday proposed a 6 percent ongoing increase over two years, a possible pay hike of up to 1 percent if the district can find $2 million, restored salary to the striking teachers — who aren’t getting paid while they’re on the picket lines — and the opportunity for retiring teachers who went on strike to earn a full-year credit towards retirement.

Union leadership shared the district’s latest offer with their members Thursday evening and teachers met on the picket lines Friday morning to discuss it, said California Teacher’s Association spokeswoman Cynthia Menzel.

They then had about an hour to share their thoughts simultaneously on a Google document that NHTA negotiators could read in real-time as they came in, Menzel said.

“The bargaining team wanted reaction from our membership to… give them a little bit more direction,” Menzel said.

Armed with this input, which was not shared publicly, union leaders went back into Friday’s bargaining session at about 9 a.m. Friday. On Thursday, district administrators expressed displeasure with the union’s counter offer, saying it would cost $17 million over three years and that the district won’t consider restored pay for strikers or retiree credits.

The union has repeatedly said that the district is sitting on a $26 million reserve that could be used to end the strike.

According to the district, however, nearly $13.6 million of that is off-limits due to state-mandated earmarks, and the remainder isn’t enough to prevent deficit spending of roughly $5 million and $2.5 million over the next two years, even without allocating it to teacher salaries. The New Haven Unified School district employs approximately 585 teachers at its 11 schools in Union City and Hayward. Approximately 11,000 students attend those schools.

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