Friday, May 10, 2002

Teacher union: Memo unfair

By Howard Wilkinson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) has filed an unfair labor practice charge accusing Superintendent Steven Adamowski of trying to mislead teachers on a new pay-for-performance plan they will vote on next week.

        The charge, filed with the State Employee Relations Board (SERB) Thursday, says that a memo to administrators signed by Mr. Adamowski and placed in the mailboxes of Cincinnati teachers earlier this month accused CFT of trying to block revisions in the plan proposed by Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) administrators.

        CFT leaders say that with the vote scheduled for Wednesday,they did not have enough time to consider the changes.

        The memo by Mr. Adamowski, the union contends in its complaint, was an illegal attempt to circumvent the collective bargaining process by dealing directly with CFT members instead of the union leadership.

        “It's unfair for the school system to be saying to teachers "we could have changed this plan, if it weren't for your union,'” said CFT attorney Donald Mooney.

        It constitutes, Mr. Mooney said, “an attempt to negotiate directly with the members. That's illegal.”

        Mr. Adamowski could not be reached for comment Thursday. CPS attorney John Concannon said there was no violation of collective bargaining rules.

        “This was a memo that was addressed to administrators only,” Mr. Concannon said. “There was never any instruction or intention that it would end up in teachers' mailboxes. It was not a memo addressed to teachers.”

        It is highly unlikely that SERB, the state board that handles complaints filed by state employee unions, will address the CFT complaint before next Wednesday's vote.

        SERB will first investigate the complaint to see if there is reason to hold a hearing on the charge. That process, Mr. Mooney said, could take months.

        “But it was important that we raise this issue now,” Mr. Mooney said.

        The pay-for-performance plan would set up a system of pay increases and decreases based on teachers' performance evaluations.

        In mid-April, CPS offered the teachers' union modifications to the plan in a bid to win union support, but CFT leaders said they did not have enough time to evaluate the proposed changes and explain them to CFT members before the May 15 vote.

        “My concern is the superintendent is making allegations that are not totally above board — accusing us of withholding information from our members,” said federation president Sue Taylor.

        Ms. Taylor said the union supports the concept of pay-for-performance but wants time to make needed revisions. “We're extremely disappointed about the circuitous route and the misinformation.

        “While the three (proposed) changes are in the realm of where we want to go, they don't address all of our concerns and we can't give our stamp of approval.”
       Enquirer reporter Jennifer Mrozowski contributed.


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