BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation remain at odds amid contract negotiations after a report meant to find some middle ground between the two garnered very different reactions.
The 22-page report was put together by a third-party fact finder assigned by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board after a request by the district negotiating team last summer.
The fact finder, Robert J. Reden, made recommendations on how to alleviate a number of issues that the district and the Teachers Federation have been unable to agree on over the past three years.
After weighing the facts and figures presented by both sides during a number of hearings, the report released Monday sided heavily with BPS on the majority of sticking points including wages, benefits, working conditions, health insurance, bell schedule, and the appointment of athletic coaches.
BTF President Phil Rumore was quick to respond Tuesday evening when the report was made public, he and his negotiating team swiftly rejected the report calling it unacceptable, incorrect, and misleading.
"You go into fact-finding, you know, feeling that, you know, there's got to be something for either side, and either side is going to agree or disagree with. But this thing here was completely one-sided," Rumore told 2 On Your Side on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Buffalo Public Schools negotiation team applauded the report and referred to it as a "blueprint for an agreement" that will anchor their positions moving forward.
"We hope to negotiate some of the other issues that were not addressed in the report. You know it's to note that every day that goes by is money out of our teachers' pockets. Every day, every delay, every day you wait is money they should be getting," BPS general counsel Nate Kuzma said.
When asked whether the district thinks the report will help or hurt their case, Kuzma said the expectation is that it will.
Rumore said he and the union are less confident and will put the results of the report to a vote by all union members with a negative recommendation.
"Usually when it's impartial there's give and take on either side they did not provide Buffalo teachers with anything," Rumore said.
Kuzma added: "When you take an unreasonable position and you're so far out, even when it's a principled approach I get it, but when you're so far outside of reality and then you continue to double down on that. It's not going to be rewarded by somebody who is neutral and looking at this from the outside."
Kuzma referred to the fact finder report as "the end of the line" in terms of negotiation options, other than having a PERB (Public Employment Relations Board) super conciliator appointed to assist in mediation. He added that the mediation team will present the report and seek the opinion of the Buffalo Board of Education.
But ultimately only the BTF and BPS negotiation teams can decide on what deal to agree to.
Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams added: "We want a contract for our teachers. We have settled 10 out of 11 with different unions, different bargaining units within the district and we won't rest until we get 11 out of 11."
Both the district and union said they hope to resume negotiations over the coming weeks.