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Why the fuss over retroactive pay?

July 24, 2014 pm31 1:37 pm

Teachers and paras are suing the UFT for retroactive pay? The principals’ union is calling the mayor “outrageous” for refusing to pay retro to principals? What gives?

The contract as written does not include retroactive payments. Instead, there are lump sums equivalent to what a member would have earned from 2009-11, payable only to retirees and in-service members. The principals are right to be pissed, but they do not have standing to complain. The members who left service have a right to be super-pissed – they were intentionally left out of this agreement.

But they are wrong on two counts – 1. despite the UFT frequently using the word “retroactive” in the campaign to get this contract passed, there is nothing in the contract that says “retroactive” and 2. suing the union is something that should make all of us uncomfortable.

Maximizing “the package”

So what happened? In short, the UFT leadership wanted members to vote yes. They wanted to claim “full retroactivity.” They wanted to show as big a raise as they could. So they worked with the DoE to maximize the payments members would get, by excluding some people from the payments. And they never really said they were doing this. They emphasized “full retro” and scrunched the raise per cents together to make them seem as large as possible. In fact, when one high-ranking UFTer read the negotiating committee the size of each year’s raise, when he came to the 0 year, he just skipped it, leaving people confused as to how many years the contract ran for.

Creating Winners – and losers

Who was left out? The biggest group – anyone who quit before today. That includes people who left on disability (one such para is a party to the lawsuit), people who were discontinued, including unfairly by incompetent or abusive principals, people who left vested, planning to retire a few years down the road….. The NY Daily News thinks there are 9000 people in these groups. I suspect the number is a bit higher. Now, that means no pay for a group of people who don’t vote, and more for everyone else. No, not fair. But I see the cynical logic.

And, apparently, anyone who moved to a non-UFT title. We just heard about teachers who moved to principals. There may be other such groups.

In addition, everyone here today will start getting their payments on schedule (1/8 Oct 1 ’15, 1/8 Oct 1 ’17, 1/4 Oct 1 ’18, 1/4 Oct 1 ’19, 1/4 Oct 1 ’20). However, anyone who should quit, resign, get discontinued – or perhaps even die – they will not get future payments. And it seems that any teacher taking a principal job in the next 6 years will suffer a pretty sharp financial hit as a consequence. Figure the DoE and UFT had actuaries and accountants actually calculate how much money would get freed up in that way.

Retroactive in Print, and Not

The New York City Department of Education – United Federation of Teachers contracts that were just ratified, cover 2009 – 2018.  Other City unions had previously settled for 2009- 2011, getting 4% and 4%. There was an expectation that UFT members would get those same raises, retroactively. That’s almost, but not quite, what happened.

The UFT Leadership boasted that they had gotten us “full retro pay.” Everyone who heard Mulgrew speak would have sworn that he said we were all getting full retroactive money. But in print, they were lawyerly. What follows are from e-mails to the membership, signed by Michael Mulgrew.

May 1:  Over the life of this nine-year pact, which runs through October 2018, UFT members will receive an 18 percent raise, full retroactivity as well as a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification.

May 4: We were able to negotiate the wage increases in this package — including the two 4 percent increases that the previous administration had insisted that the city could never afford — through stretching out how the retroactive raises are being paid. Be assured that all members will receive every penny that they have earned since Nov. 1, 2009 as long as they are in-service, have retired since that date or are planning to retire in the future.

May 5: The phase-in of the retroactive raises has no bearing on the final amount of retro payments you’ll receive. All in-service and retired members will receive 100 percent of the money they are entitled to, compounded back to Nov. 1, 2009, by 2020.

May 9: The vast majority of questions we are receiving are about the salary increases and the retro package. If this contract is ratified, all in-service and retired members will receive 100 percent of the money they are entitled to, back to Nov. 1, 2009, by 2020.

Notice how “full retroactivity” on May 1 got a caveat added on May 4: “as long as they are in-service, have retired since that date or are planning to retire in the future”. By May 9 the raises have become a “package.”

On May 1 there was no qualification of who was getting the back pay. On May 4 it was limited to in-service, retired, and those planning to retire.

And then the Memorandum of Agreement came out, and the word “retroactive” did not appear at all. Read it for yourself (3. Wages, sections B and E)



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