9/1/07

Another teacher strike looms in RI

Members of National Education Association Tiverton have voted to authorize its negotiating committee to call for action up to and including a Tuesday morning strike.

The negotiating committee and about 150 Tiverton teachers met Friday afternoon at the Green Valley Country Club in Portsmouth to debate whether to report to work Tuesday. The town's 200 contracted teachers reported to work Wednesday for the first day of school despite contentious negotiations with School Department officials.

During Friday's closed-door meeting, several teachers expressed concerns about the contract situation, according to Patrick Crowley, the teachers union spokesman. "I was happy members took an active stance," he said. "I'm proud of them that they're willing to stand up for themselves."

The agreement under which the teachers union was working - that actually expired last year - ended Friday at midnight.

The School Committee's current proposal for salary and health care would decrease teachers overall salaries by 1.5 percent, according to union officials. The average loss in wages for a member on a family heath-care plan is $2,201 and the average loss in wages for a member on an individual plan is $1,315, according to union figures.

The union has asked the state Department of Labor and Training to mediate the dispute, but the request has been ignored, according to Amy Mullen, president of the teachers union.

Larry Purtill, president of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, was present at Friday's meeting. He said that if there is a teachers strike Tuesday, parents have only one party to blame: the School Committee.

"They (School Committee members) were elected for a job and they need to do it," Purtill said. "Their job is to get a contract so kids can go to school on Tuesday."

Mullen said that after the meeting ended about 6 p.m. a phone call was made to Superintendent William J. Rearick. She was told the superintendent was speaking with members of the School Committee, and, as of Friday at about 8:30 p.m., Mullen said she was waiting to hear from Rearick. She said that at the very least she is expecting a phone call this morning.

Mullen said the clock is ticking and that the negotiating committee is waiting for a response from the School Committee. She said the union would make it self available all weekend to negotiate.

"We want this done so we can get back to teaching kids," Mullen said.

(newportdailynews.com)

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