EDITORIAL

Legislation won’t help

Posted

What has become tagged as the “Warwick Teachers Contract bill” by legislators is one of the hot issues legislators face in the waning days of this session of the General Assembly. Introduced by Warwick Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson, the measure would legislate that the terms of existing bargaining agreements remain in effect until a new agreement is reached.

The roots to the legislation stem from the current contract disagreement between the Warwick teachers and the School Committee that have been unable to reach an agreement after nearly two years of mediation, arbitration and court cases. Indeed, this has been a prolonged, costly and frustrating impasse that has been felt in the classroom and impaired the educational process.

From practically the start of talks, the union has argued the terms of the expired contract remain in place until a new one is reached. It makes sense. Teachers cannot strike and the last time they did so, 18 Warwick teachers ended up behind bars in 1992. Likewise it would be unfair if municipalities and the state could strip workers of all they have gained through successive bargaining sessions once a contract expires. Conceivably, using this premise, wages could be lowered and duties could be increased under the threat of dismissal. The employer would have free rein to do as they wish while the workers, disarmed of the ability to strike, would be vulnerable.

While this is an argument for the bill, legislators need look no further than the Warwick impasse to understand its failings. Warwick schools have operated on the understanding that terms of the existing contract remain in place for decades, supported by a Labor Relations Board finding that the committee committed an unfair labor practice when it failed to abide by the former agreement.

The current School Committee didn’t play by those rules when it moved ahead with secondary school consolidations, laying off more than the 20 teachers set in the terms of the former agreement. The committee also moved ahead with electronic grading, setting it as the standard, although the union argued it is a contractual issue and should be part of the contract. The union likewise argues a system of student weighting, where special needs students are considered as more than one in establishing class size, should remain intact until a new agreement is reached.

The committee challenged the Labor Relations Board ruling with the court ruling that, because of the declining student enrollment and the need to consolidate schools, it had the right to lay off greater numbers than set by the terms of the former agreement. In essence, it can be argued, the courts have already found strictly abiding by the terms of the former contract isn’t a sound practice.

As the union has repeatedly said, the best venue for reaching an agreement is the bargaining table with both sides talking. Mandating that the former contract terms remain in place serve as a disincentive to both sides. State legislators need to look no further than the labor history of Warwick schools where abiding by the terms of the prior contract has been the practice until challenged by the current School Committee to know this doesn’t help reach a consensus.

Comments

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richardcorrente

There are two important points of the above article.

One:

It shows that the teachers are operating in good faith abiding by the terms of the previous agreement until they can write a new one and the School Committee is not. And

Two:

Camille Vella-Wilkenson is being pro-active with legislation to protect both sides in the future. Whether this is the best solution or not, only time will tell, but she deserves a lot of credit for the effort.

WAY-TO-GO-(AGAIN) CAMILLE VELLA-WILKENSON!

Happy Forth-of-July everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, June 27
CrickeeRaven

The previous comment proves two things:

1. The fake "mayor" still has no idea how contract negotiations work; and

2. Submitting a bill is not the same as getting a law passed.

I would also add:

3. The fake "mayor" seems to believe in a fake holiday, "Forth-of-July," when honest Americans know it to be the Fourth of July.

As embarrassing as his prior comments are, the fake "mayor" will assuredly exceed that embarrassment in his next comment.

Tuesday, June 27
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

Don't lie.

I never said that submitting a bill is the same as getting it passed, but even you should admit that it is the first step.

As far as me not spelling the word "fourth", CR! Get a life! My spell-check didn't catch that one letter and neither did I. Can we please move on?

Happy Summer CR.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, July 24
CrickeeRaven

-- "My spell-check didn't catch that one letter and neither did I."

- The fake "mayor" posted his erroneous "Forth-of-July" spelling multiple times before this article; he had ample opportunity to spell the holiday properly and did not correct his error until it was proven to be wrong.

-- "Can we please move on?" writes the fake "mayor" who returns to a month-old article and makes excuses for his failure to spell a holiday correctly.

The fake "mayor" will certainly continue to humiliate himself in his future comments.

Monday, July 24