Talks continue for new BPS teacher contract

BTF contract talks resume Sunday afternoon

BUFFALO, N.Y. --  Talks resumed Friday between Buffalo Public Schools and the teachers union about a new contract for teachers, who have been without one for 12 years.

Teachers union representatives arrived at the Office of Superintendent Kriner Cash just after 3 p.m. Friday. They left about two hours later.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore says talks will resume Sunday afternoon. Rumore emerged from contract talks hopeful that a deal is only days away.

"Are you confident that you can bring an agreement to your teachers Monday afternoon at Kleinhans?" asked 2 On Your Side’s Kelly Dudzik.

"I wouldn't say confident. I'm hopeful," says Rumore. "We still have a lot of work to do, but we've significantly closed the gap. I think it can be done."

Rumore says progress was made Friday during negotiations with the Buffalo School District to come up with a new contract. Rumore says there are a couple of issues that still need to be hammered out before both sides meet again Sunday afternoon.

The district would only confirm through a written statement Friday that it held negotiations with the BTF and that the parties have agreed to meet again on Sunday. There is a special school board meeting Monday where a district spokesperson tells me they will either vote on a contract or review what happened during negotiations.

Friday's negotiations came two weeks after a massive turnout by teachers rallying for a new deal at Niagara Square

Teachers seemed to be coming close to a new contract after a school board meeting Wednesday.

Rumore said Buffalo School teachers have fallen behind their suburban peers, primarily in the maximum amount a teacher can make. 

Rumore explained that not only do teachers in the suburbs get to their maximum in fewer years, but when they do, they make significantly more -- sometimes, up to $20,000 more. 

"These are real numbers from salary schedules that we looked at. The key here is that it takes us 27 years to get the maximum. And our maximum isn't that high," he said. 

However, school board member Larry Quinn says that salaries don't tell the entire story. 

"It doesn't show the total compensation that teachers receive," he said. "When you receive free health care and free retiree health care that costs $70 million a year, it's part of your entire compensation." 

Amid jeers by teachers at the meeting Wednesday, Quinn continued insisting that compensation was something to consider. 

"This is really simple -- you got $70 million a year that somebody else doesn't and the district can easily reallocate that to salaries. It's simple math," he said.  

At a school board meeting in September, the district revealed a proposal which would have included an immediate ten-percent raise for teachers. It also asked teachers to pay ten-percent of their health care premium.

"One of the big sticking points was the ten-percent of the health care costs. Is that something that you have been discussing at length today?" asked Dudzik on Friday.

"Well, obviously, health care, salaries, class size, all of those issues we're still discussing," said Rumore.

The contract proposal has been revised since the one made public in September. And although it was being discussed Friday, it was being done behind closed doors.

One controversial part of the contract certainly sounds like it's on its way out though.

"What about the cosmetic surgery rider?" asked Dudzik.

“We've agreed to get rid of the cosmetic surgery rider a long time ago," said Rumore.

If there is an agreement, Rumore says it would probably be made public after Sunday's meeting so teachers have a chance to look at it before their big meeting on Monday where they'd be able to vote on the contract.

Before a contract could even go to vote, it would have to pass by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, more commonly known as the Control Board. 


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