Possible 'sick-out' plans squashed by teachers
A source with knowledge of negotiations between the Warwick School Committee and the Warwick Teachers’ Union said late Wednesday afternoon that teachers were gearing up for a possible “sick-out” in lieu of going on an all-out strike as the impasse between securing a new collective bargaining agreement continues.
However the source later confirmed that the union ultimately took no such action, and will continue to await the findings of independent arbitration.
The source indicated that, in a prolonged debate between members of the union, some teachers felt they might suffer from a loss of public support if they were to engage in a sick-out or go on strike, the latter of which is illegal for teachers and public safety officials to do in Rhode Island. The last time a strike occurred was in 1992, and teachers were jailed as a result.
Murmurs began circulating on Tuesday that the Warwick Teachers’ Union would take the possibility of a strike to a vote. A similar measure reportedly did not make it to a vote in early September. As of press time, it was uncertain whether a motion to strike or engage in a sick-out was even brought forth to a vote, only that the final decision was to engage in neither action. The union will not meet for another month.
The two sides remain unable to reach an agreement as teachers are now a month into navigating the third consecutive school year without a contract.
The union maintains that they refuse to make concessions on what they consider crucial uncertainties regarding contractual language that would enforce smaller classroom sizes and equitable assigning of students with individual education programs (IEPs), in addition to their insistence that grievances filed stemming from violations of the old contract throughout the absence of a new agreement should remain valid.
Those representing the school administration stand firm that they have offered a more than fair financial package, which addresses years of retro-pay raises and would make top tier teachers among the highest paid in the state, and have tried to meet to discuss class size and IEP contractual language, but the union has refused to acquiesce to such requests.
The union has responded to that assertion by saying the school administration unfairly asked them to drop all their pending grievances and not discuss anything besides class sizes and IEP assigning as a condition for meeting, which they refuse to adhere to.
All of this is occurring as the long-awaited results of third party arbitration looms in the background, although it remains to be seen when those results will be released, or whether the union will ultimately accept the terms of such arbitration or not.