On Jan. 14, the Bayonne Teachers Association representatives met the Board of Education negotiation team, with no progress being made, according to a BTA spokesman, who said the teachers’ union was filing for a “super conciliation,” the final step in the contract negotiation process.
Then on Jan. 22, the board of education took out a full-page advertisement in the Community News, outlining what it said were the reasons for the lack of an agreement.
In the ad, the board said that the union agreed to an independent state fact finder to review the case and recommend a new contract, but that since the report has been issued, “the union is refusing to abide by it.”
Alan D’Angelo of the BTA negotiation team contends that what the state arbiter suggested amounted to little more than a shell game.
“The fact finder took the same amount of money, put it in different places, and took care of things we said we needed,” he said.
“There’s been no movement for over a year,” D’Angelo said. “They’re not willing to negotiate. They’re just dictating whatever they put on the table.”
But Robert Clarke of Apruzzese, McDermott, Mastro & Murphy, P.C., representing the board, said that it’s the BTA that is being difficult.
“The fact finder concluded a lengthy hearing with testimony, the board’s budgets, comparability data, and over 1,000 exhibits, documents that went into evidence,” he said. “Based on that, he found that a fair settlement was $7.9 million over the four years, and he also found that it fell within the average of other (school) settlements throughout the state of New Jersey.”
“They were looking for $22 million,” Clarke said. “In any other district, this would have settled three years ago. They’re looking for much more money than any board of education could afford.”
D’Angelo faulted the board for not agreeing to negotiate on a seven-year deal, factoring in the time already lost for the last four years trying to reach an agreement.
But Clarke finds the BTA’s request disingenuous.
“Our response to that’s been, as soon as we settle the first four years, we’ll sit down with them the next day and start working with them on the next three years,” he said. We’ll talk about (years) five, six, and seven after settling on years one, two, three, and four.”
“It’s like changing the rules of the game in the ninth inning,” Clarke said.
D’Angelo says the BTA’s main problem with the contract all along has been the numerous steps teachers must progress through before seeing a “measurable” increase in their salaries.
“(There’s) $200 between each step for 12 years,” he said. “In the 13th year, there’s a $9,000 raise, then $12,000 and then $15,000 to $90,000.”
While D’Angelo said police officers and firefighters in the city are deserving of the pay that they receive, he said that after their academies their steps allow for an $8,000 increase each year.
“We’re not looking for some super-great deal,” he said. “I’m trying to bring something back to my people. This would be our worst contract in the last 30 years.”
The next step
Clarke said that because a deal has not been made, a hearing will have to be held by the state Public Employment Relations Commission. He said no date had been set yet.
“Negotiations now will take forever,” he said.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.