Warwick Teachers Union Balks at Talks

The Warwick Teachers Union (WTU) leadership continues to look for and (surprise) find reasons to not meet with the Warwick School Committee to help resolve the district’s $8.9 million budget deficit. As reported by Russel Moore in the Warwick Beacon, the School Administration had proposed to consolidate and eliminate some department head positions in the City’s schools (estimated savings of $300,000), which “infuriated union members.” Enter WTU President James Ginolfi:

“We were more than willing to sit down and talk until they took that unilateral action. It’s like they want to talk right after they violate our contract,” said Ginolfi….[U]nion members…wanted to address the budget deficit through negotiations. Ginolfi said it would be illegal to eliminate the department heads without the union’s consent because the positions are contractually protected. The union has since filed a grievance….Meanwhile, the school committee had scheduled a meeting with the union’s executive board last Tuesday. The purpose of the meeting was quite open-ended, Ginolfi said.
“[School Committee Chairman Christopher Friel] said that we were going to talk about everything. What does that mean? I wanted to set some parameters before we met,” said Ginolfi.
Ginolfi then notified the school committee that unless they rescinded their plans to eliminate department heads — there would be no meeting, at least so far as the union was concerned. No progress was made and neither side would budge. The school department wouldn’t rescind the notices and the union didn’t show up. Tuesday came and went without a meeting.

Apparently, the WTU leadership isn’t able to multi-task. Ahh, that’s not really true. It’s all about perception and rights and contracts, you see. Gotta save face, show power, get your agida up over being “insulted” or slighted. Ginolfi was also upset that the Administration had publicly stated that all school employees should have a 20% health care co-pay before coming to the WTU. It’s not exactly a newsflash that co-pays are on the horizon, whether you’ve been officially informed or not. Grow up and get in the room and talk. Sheesh.
Meanwhile, there still doesn’t seem to be any negotiation movement between the School Deparment and the Warwick Independent School Employees Union (WISE), whose members have been working under the old contract for 4 years, which means no raises but also no health care co-payments. Makes me wonder if the East Greenwich model is being looked at for implementation in Warwick.

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14 years ago

The union president was present during the budget hearings when the Superintendent suggested the 20% co-pay.
No surprise. Once agin WTU trying to play hard ball to keep status quo.
Four years ago teachers removed Mary Pendergast as president because she continue to use old school union tactics that ultimately resulted in the teachers getting a worse contract then police, fire and municipal employees in the city in terms of pay.
The same may happen again. Rank and file teachers better wake up as the East Providence model is a real possibility.
Set an example in the city for all other employees to follow, instead of going down the road that will destroy what little programs for kids remian.
Keep track of thoes candidates for school committee that will not committ to substantal chnages to the teachers contract to win back management rights to cut school department budget.
With Warwick schools seeing no new money for at least two years, cuts are the only way to balance budget. Those cuts need to be in personnel costs (benefits and salary) rather then children’s programs.

14 years ago

“With Warwick schools seeing no new money for at least two years, cuts are the only way to balance budget. Those cuts need to be in personnel costs (benefits and salary) rather then children’s programs.”
Think again.
Those familiar with Warwick KNOW there is way too much waste! The WPS Admin hasn’t even taken the knife to the fat in the system…
First to go should be the head of the IS Department! Next up, Director of Curriculum!

14 years ago

Aldo, As I’ve said multiple times, yes, there is still fat in the admin. But the real savings is to be found in the 87% of the budget tied up in employee contracts held by the two unions (WISA and the WTU). The two positions you cited account for $200-225k MAX. The deficit is almost $9 million. The salaries/benefits for the admin portion of the budget is around $7-8 million. Even if they removed everyone from the Admin building–including clerks, secretaries as well as the “big dogs”–and shut it down, there would still be a $1 million deficit. I’m not defending the admin, just pointing out the simple reality that when most of the money goes to the union contracts, that’s where most of the cuts will have to be made. So, sure, cut those two positions, but you still have to renegotiate the union contracts.

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