They Said, They Said

Last night, members of the Warwick Schools Administration and School Committee attended a public hearing in front of the City Council to discuss the 2010 budget. Blame was cast, fingers were pointed and recent contracts approved by the School Committee and City Council were compared and contrasted:

Under a contract extension negotiated last year, teachers gave back part of their pay raises for the current school year and will receive a 2.25-percent salary increase next year.
In return, their health-insurance premium co-payments were kept status quo at a flat rate of $11 per week per employee.
When council members repeatedly pointed out that the School Committee had won no health insurance concessions in that renegotiation, Committee Chairman Christopher Friel countered that the schools’ health benefits pale in comparison to what the city gives its employees.
Avedisian was recently able to renegotiate the labor pacts with all city unions in which employees not only made wage concessions but agreed to increase their health-insurance payments to $28 per week.
Friel said that while that is true, the schools do not provide lifetime health insurance like the city does and it requires co-payments from retirees while the city does not. If the School Department’s benefits matched what the city gives it employees, it would cost tens of millions of dollars, he said.

Nothing new, but the public sector mindset is still obvious to see. Concessions bartered still result in better deals than in the private sector during these tough economic times. Real concessions would have entailed–at the very least–wage freezes and pragmatic benefit adjustments all-around. (Instead, for instance, neither Council nor Committee saw fit to make health insurance co-pays or co-shares a percentage rather than a flat fee). So while the pols point fingers at each other, the taxpayer is left to shake their head and wish a pox on both their houses. For the bottom line remains: real fiscal sanity cannot be restored until the accumulated, negotiated detritus of the past 30 years is cleaned up and simplified. Until then, we’re just nibbling at the edges and praying for pennies from heaven.

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