RE: Breaking – Committee Wins
A Superior Court judge ruled today that the East Providence School Committee “acted lawfully” when it unilaterally cut teachers’ salaries and forced a 20 percent contribution to their health insurance costs last year.
Facing a deficit of more than $4 million, the board made the reductions in January 2009, saying it had to in order to comply with a state law that says school districts can’t deficit spend.
The board’s lawyers also argued that the committee was able to make the changes without the consent of the local teacher union because there wasn’t a contract in effect for the almost 500 teachers. The last agreement expired on Oct. 31, 2008.
“… When the parties have reached an impasse in negotiations and their actions are not governed by a binding collective bargaining agreement, a committee can make unilateral changes when faced with an actual deficit,” Judge Michael A. Silverstein said in his written decision.
While this may be a particular circumstance, it could mean a fundamental shift in negotiating tactics going forward. Until now, it was to the unions advantage to delay and stall for a better deal (for instance, waiting for the economy to turn around) while operating under the old contract. This could change that as unions may fear that a School Committee could actually take the opportunity of an impasse to exercise their management rights and make unilateral cuts and adjustments.