Teachers to picket over wage raise dispute

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Just when it seemed there would be some long-awaited labor peace between the Warwick Teachers Union and the Warwick School Department, a flurry of emails that reveals a conflict over when teachers will receive retroactive and proactive pay raises is already threatening to bubble into a boil less than a month removed from the ratification of two new collective bargaining agreements in mid-November.

Emails sent to the Beacon reveal that Warwick Teachers Union president Darlene Netcoh is rallying union members to picket tonight’s School Committee meeting at Warwick Veterans Junior High School and again outside the Gorton Administration Building on Thursday, due to an assertion that Superintendent Philip Thornton and the school administration has “reneged” on delivering pay raises by Dec. 21, a date that Netcoh asserts was agreed upon and legitimized by a signed document between School Committee chairwoman Beth Furtado and Netcoh.

“The superintendent has informed me through our conversations that the Warwick School Committee plans to renege on all retro and salary payments due to teachers on Dec. 21, 2017 as per our agreement,” reads an email sent from Netcoh to the Warwick School Committee on Dec. 6. “Such an action is an unlawful labor practice and a repudiation of our agreement.”

The email goes on to request immediate answers on whether or not the retro raises will be paid as agreed upon or not and threatens to file an Unfair Labor Practice complaint and “breach of contract action” if the raises are not received.

Per the new contract, the teachers are primed to earn an actualized 1 percent retroactive pay raise effective from March 1, 2017 until to the end of August 2017. Additionally, the teachers were awarded a 3 percent pay increase on top of that retroactive raise, scheduled to begin on Oct. 1, which would be their new salary for the remainder of the school year.

The salary increases were reportedly scheduled to be reflected in the teachers’ next paycheck – which they receive bi-weekly – on Dec. 21, and they were scheduled to receive a separate check for the retroactive pay raise the same day.

Last week, Thornton sent an email to teachers indicating that the school department wouldn’t be able to include retroactive or proactive pay raises in the Dec. 21 check because the Warwick City Council has not yet given them access to the $3.3 million that was withheld from the department during the FY18 budget hearings, which they ruled would be allocated once a contract was reached to cover the increased salary costs.

“Since the WTU officially ratified the agreement, we have worked tirelessly to get on the December City Council Agendas without any success,” Thornton wrote in the email to teachers. “Accordingly, it does not appear that we will be able to meet the Dec. 21st payroll goal.”

Thornton added that the School Committee will appear before the council on Jan. 3, and the earliest the funds could be voted on for approval was Jan 17. With this timeline, teachers wouldn’t see a paycheck reflective of their pay increases until early February.

However, Netcoh maintained during an interview on Friday that the Dec. 21 date for receiving pay increases was not merely a “goal” but was written down on a document as a stated part of the contract agreement prior to the Union ratifying it, and that the administration is now in breach of that agreement.

“On Nov. 20, the chair of the School Committee [Bethany Furtado] signed a document with the date of Dec. 21, 2017 to be the date that the 3 percent raise was to begin, and that the retro-checks were to be paid,” Netcoh said. “On Nov. 21 the union ratified the CBAs based on this information on this document. Teachers want to receive the pay for which they are entitled.”

A separate email from Netcoh to the teachers, sent on Dec. 7, revealed that the union is not going to accept Thornton’s explanation regarding the inability to secure a date to speak before the council and are putting him on the hook to deliver on the pay raises.

“In his e-mail he seems to blame the City Council for his decision not to pay us on Dec. 21, 2017,” reads the email. “You need to know that the City Council is blameless in this matter. The Superintendent should have worked better with the City Council and, at this point, the Superintendent should request that the school committee vote to use funds that it currently possesses to honor its contractual obligations with the Warwick Teachers' Union.”

Ward 5 City Councilman and chair of the council finance committee Ed Ladouceur was outraged by Superintendent Thornton’s email to teachers. Of delaying payment until council approval of additional school funds, he said Thornton “threw the council under the bus.” He said he has received more emails on this issue than any other he has dealt with as a member of the council.

Ladouceur was incredulous that the department would say it doesn’t have the funds to pay for the raises, observing that the department has a full year of funding and is barely at the six-month mark in its budget.

“They need to take care of their financial responsibility,” said Ladouceur.

Furthermore, he noted, it was the school administration that made the agreement to make payment by Dec. 21, “so they need to pay the bill.”

School Chief Budget Officer Tony Ferrucci said delaying the payment of raises and retroactive salary increases until the council releases funds aren’t a matter of cash flow but budgetary requirements. He said he is legally bound to have a balanced budget. Appropriating funds that aren’t budgeted would be in violation of state law and could subject the department to an investigation from the state auditor general.

Apart from that, Ferrucci said, “If I made this payment, you [the council] would say you don’t need the money [additional appropriation] and we’re not going to pay.”

Ladouceur called the argument “the Ferrucci shell game.” He said the department has no way to forecasting to the penny its salary requirements.

“It’s a moving target on payroll,” he said. His point is that the raises can be paid for out of the budget prior to allocation of the funds withheld by the council.

What of the reasoning that the council would withhold the appropriation as scheduled on the basis that the school department showed it doesn’t need the funds?

“That’s crap,” retorted Ladouceur. “It’s perfectly clear the money was set aside for the contract,” he said.

Netcoh described the situation as just another example of how the school administration has tried to vilify teachers without shouldering any of their own responsibility.

“The ink is not even dry on our collective bargaining agreement and already they are violating it,” she said. “If the superintendent and the School Committee want labor peace, then they need to stop playing games. Now everyone should understand what the teachers have been dealing with over the last three years. The superintendent is blaming the City Council the way he's blamed us.”

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richardcorrente

Power corrupts.

The School Committee (SC) has over three and a half million dollars in their cash reserve fund for their health benefits. They haven't needed to withdraw a penny in over seventeen years, because they have never needed to and never will. They also have the salaries of the dozens of teachers that they laid off JUST THIS YEAR! Why can't they afford to send these checks out on Dec. 21st? They clearly have plenty of the taxpayers money to afford it.

"IF", and I haven't seen the document so that's an honest "if", the School Committee sent Darlene Netcoh a written commitment to give the teachers a certain amount of money on a certain date, and they don't comply with their WRITTEN AGREEMENT, they should be criminally charged!

"IF" that is the case, they have acted in the worst possible way toward our teachers RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. That alone is the most shameful act I have ever witnessed them do. I have been calling for an independent audit of the SC from an independent, outside, third party for years. Now I think it should be a forensic one. What is going on in the SC, I believe, is criminal!

The Mayor needs to get involved. We can't let Warwick's reputation to be tarnished ...again.

Our teachers deserve much better than this.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
patientman

Would the adults please intervene? This is ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
ThatGuyInRI

Good Lord this is insane.

And once again the "taxpayers mayor" shows he doesn't know what he's talking about. Breach of contract is not a criminal offense, it's a civil offense.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
CrickeeRaven

As usual, the fake "mayor" can not resist posting more absurd conspiracy theories and easily-debunked talking points.

"Why can't they afford to send these checks out on Dec. 21st?"

The article above -- which the fake "mayor" clearly did not read -- states, in plain language, that the raises can not be paid "because the Warwick City Council has not yet given them access to the $3.3 million that was withheld from the department during the FY18 budget hearings."

It is yet another example of his hypocrisy that the fake "mayor" often demands more city oversight of school operations, but when the city fails in its obligation to provide money owed to the school department, he decides to ignore it.

He also ignores the contractual restriction from using the health benefit cash reserve that was explained to him, in person, by Anthony Ferrucci at a recent school committee meeting.

Here are the facts, which the fake "mayor" can not change with his fevered imagination or pathetic accusations:

- The city council, which consists of nine members of the fake "mayor's" party, removed funding from the city budget in a blatant PR stunt to make it look like they were cutting spending.

- Contrary to the fake "mayor's" statements, actual Mayor Avedisian "got involved" and predicted that they risked having to put the money back into the budget, but the city council did not listen.

- This, incidentally, is one of the 29 items that the fake "mayor" loves to tout when falsely giving credit to the city council for "cutting spending." City expenditures are actually going up by some $6 million in FY18.

Thankfully for honest, taxpaying voters in Warwick, the fake "mayor" continues to readily demonstrate his complete unfitness for office and make a humiliating spectacle of himself. His continued pathetic behavior will certainly inform the decision by tens of thousands of voters when they again decisively reject his candidacy again next November.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
ThatGuyInRI

^ Preach on brother!

And if the WTU is going to picket, shouldn't they picket the City Council not the School Committee?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Hello again ThatGuyInRI:

You're right: The teachers should take up the issue with the city council. Councilman Ladouceur clearly has an ax to grind with Ferrucci and Thornton, and expresses it every time he is quoted in the media. But would you agree that grudges based on old history should not be the basis for making governing decisions?

In a comment above, patientman asked above when the adults will intervene; looks like someone already tried and was ignored. After being given a clear and blatant warning by the actual mayor that they were running a risk by withholding the $3.3 million in school funding, the council went and did it anyway.

And now, as we've so often seen from the fake "mayor," it seems to be his party's strategy to try and redirect attention from its own missteps. Blaming the school administration for not spending money that it doesn't have is, let's face it, not the best look for the council.

Instead of continuing the war of words and risking yet another PR stunt by the WTU, the council should schedule an emergency meeting [which they can, as long as they schedule it 48 hours in advance and post notices as required by law] and pass a resolution restoring the funds. The potential disruption of teacher pay and possible breach of contract are reason enough to call such a meeting.

Whatever the fake "mayor" and his party members on the council may say, the city is ultimately responsible to uphold the contract by funding it. They can't blame the school administration for their poor decisions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
richardcorrente

Dear ThatGuyInRI,

You're right again.

Law of contracts do come into play here but the severity of it seems, to me, criminal. I have spoken to my legal people and they agree. And IF the City Council is causing the delay, you're right again, they should be the target of the picket line. However, everything I have ever learned about the School Committee shows that they have absolute control over all funds. It sounds to me like they are trying to "pass the buck". Ed ladouceur is right when he says "The School Committee has a year of funding and they are barely at the six-month mark."

Here's something you and I can absolutely agree on.

"IF" a promise was made to pay the teachers a certain amount of money by a certain date, AND that promise was made by The School Committee, then the School Committee is bound by that promise!

"IF" the agreement says "Subject to City Council approval" that's different, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't.

Agreed?

Rick

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Hello again ThatGuyInRI:

It seems, yet again, that the fake "mayor" succeeds only in showing how delusional he is.

- "I have spoken to my legal people and they agree."

Any lawyer with knowledge of municipal law knows that criminal charges can not be brought against a legislative body for its actions; criminal charges can be brought against individual members in cases of bribery &c. Whoever these "legal people" are that the fake "mayor" has invented in his fevered imagination, they are clearly not versed in municipal law.

- "[E]verything I have ever learned about the School Committee shows that they have absolute control over all funds."

The fake "mayor" is clearly ignoring the fact that the city council approves a budget that funds both municipal and school operations, and that the current city council decided not to keep $3.3 million in the FY18 budget to pay for the new teachers contract. The school committee thus does not "have absolute control over all funds," nor can they control money that is not provided to them.

It is also curious that he quotes Councilman Ladouceur, who had no problem in 2014 with approving a tax hike to provide $400,000 in additional funding to the school department -- as described here: http://warwickpost.com/warwick-council-overrides-avedesians-school-funding-hike-veto/1297/ -- and yet is now demanding that school administrators spend money that the council did not give it.

We should be thankful that the fake "mayor" continues to so readily display his complete unfitness for office and make a humiliating spectacle of himself; his adamant refusal to change his behavior will certainly inspire tens of thousands of honest, taxpaying voters in Warwick to reject his doomed candidacy again next November.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
LorettaLipps

I could swear I read that it was never about the money. And they still have 90 sick days?!?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Powerof0

To all of you Corrente haters you made your point now all you are is a bully...

Definition of bully

plural bullies

1 a : a blustering, browbeating person; especially : one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable ·tormented by the neighborhood bully

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
markyc

The School Committee should have planned for the scheduled payments; no wonder the City Council/Warwick taxpayers cast a suspicious eye on the way they operate. I find it hard to believe that the State of RI watches every nickel & dime within a fiscal year; especially NORMAL operating expenses-certainly the expected retroactive & initial payments of wages/payroll will not amount to the full $ 3.3 million. This only reinforces the City Council's level of questioning regarding the proposed bond projects by the School Committee/administration.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
richardcorrente

Dear LorettaLipps,

That's a misconception.

As I understand it, the Warwick school teachers only have 5 sick days. 5.

They also have the "teachers" version of Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI). Basically it says that there are up to 85 additional days that a teacher can not show up for work and through a formula that is as confusing as hell, they can get partial credit depending on way-too-many factors. Teachers don't pay into or receive, TDI. It would be much simpler if they did. I think they would prefer it as well. What they get instead costs about the same and does about the same. However, as far as sick days, it is only five, unless the new contract says otherwise. Hope this clears up any misconception.

Merry Christmas LorettaLipps.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Dear Powerof0,

Thank you.

Rick

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Powerof0:

If you don't like seeing the fake "mayor" called to account for his repeated lies, go somewhere else. Better yet, suggest to him that he should do basic research and make factual statements, as I am about to show, yet again, his refusal to do:

LorettaLipps:

Here is the link to the current teachers contract: https://drive.google.com/file/d/17BnEr7GF6irBUOpPnl197gYIm7JFzuuZ/view

The relevant section is on page 28, which states that all staff who work more than 35 hours per week get 15 days per year [not 5 as the fake "mayor" claims], and can carry over unused sick days, up to a total of 115. It also eliminates the prior formula for determining sick day payments.

So, in his attempt to "clear up any misconception," the fake "mayor" has, in fact, created more confusion by not providing readers with easily-accessible public information and not truthfully reflecting what is in the contract.

He thus continues his sole success, in humiliating himself on this website. Honest, taxpaying voters will certainly have this in mind when they go to the polls next November and decisively reject his candidacy yet again.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
WwkVoter

I have to say, Raven always adds good information to these stories. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Thank you for the kind compliment, WwkVoter. What I hope to show is that information is readily available for voters to see the facts and avoid the confusion that the fake "mayor" clearly intends to create with his false statements.

His statement to "Zero" above also indicates that he thinks himself the victim of bullying; this is a highly ironic and pathetic assertion made on the same page where he calls the school committee corrupt and accuses its members of "criminal" behavior with no evidence.

I look forward to joining you and tens of thousands of honest, taxpaying voters in defeating his candidacy again next November.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
WwkVoter

Oh I forgot to comment on the actual story itself. I'm with the teachers. We need our teachers and school admin to get back onto the same page since the protracted contract issues, and paying them *as agreed* would be a good way to start the healing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Powerof0

CrickeeRaven

The contract link you provided is not the teachers WTU contract link it is the WISE union contract https://drive.google.com/file/d/17BnEr7GF6irBUOpPnl197gYIm7JFzuuZ/view . Page 28 is the benefits that WISE union members get not WTU… So not only are you a bully you spread false information…

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
CrickeeRaven

Zero: I admit to making an error in posting the incorrect contract. That's one against me. Mea culpa.

And seriously, stop calling me a bully. We have a failed candidate who has spent two years spreading falsehoods and browbeating other commenters on this website. Again, if you don't like seeing him called on it, go somewhere else.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Justanidiot

On this issue, the teachers's are correct, if something was a deliverable in a contract, they deserve it when they were promised. The one thing that went against the teachers saw their union president on tv crying poor mouth and that they were deserving of a living wage. This is a slap in the face of people who struggle every day to make ends meet and have a hard time making a living wage. I don't think that any teacher's family is going without food or heat or any basic necessities because they didn't get their money when it was promised.

The only thing that happened is that they might have fallen behind in their payments for the private schools they send their kids to.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017