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Arbitrator Decision regarding District Violations of 2012 contract

Dear Brothers & Sisters:

The Arbitrator's decision on our Grievances over the district's failure to implement certain provisions of the 2012 contract has finally arrived.   The 2012 contract was a controversial one, we know. Those who benefited loved it; those who didn’t hated it; some saw it as too progressive, others saw it as regressive. Ultimately, the membership voted for the contract, and it became our responsibility to monitor and enforce its implementation.  

After attempting to resolve numerous disputes directly with the District over its failure to properly implement certain provisions in the contract, we were forced to file grievances which required an arbitrator to resolve.

Below is a summary of the arbitrator’s ruling.  We are trying to keep this summary as brief as possible, the arbitrator's decision is 160 pages long and available on our website.  If you have any questions, please reach out to Mike Maillaro at the Newark Teachers Union at mmaillaro@newarkteachersunion.com

1)      Retroactive Longevity PaymentsThe arbitrator ruled “the district violated the agreement by not making retroactive longevity payments to those employees who achieve eligibility for the payments…between the time of contract expiration and the date of implementation of the MOA. The District shall provide these payments within a reasonable period of time.”

This was a huge victory!  Throughout the decision, the arbitrator repeatedly says the district “undermined” its own arguments.  We believe this will impact over 500 of our members who will see payments of thousands of dollars for this district’s failure to pay their longevity as was agreed upon. We will do our best to effectuate the award as quickly as possible.

2)      Retroactive PayThe arbitrator ruled “the district violated the MOA by denying prorated one-time salary payments to…any…employee who was on a leave of absence. The District shall make this payment within a reasonable period of time.”

To date, we have approximately 40 staff who were on medical leave at the end of the 2011-2012 school year that the district refused to pay any retroactive money to.  This ruling ensures these payments will be made. We will do our best to effectuate the award as quickly as possible.

3)      District-Approved Plans – The arbitrator ruled “the district violated…the MOA by not creating a Consultative Committee to make recommendations on program criteria…the Consultative Committee shall be convened…teachers who have achieved graduate degrees prior to the District’s approval of a District-approved program shall submit their degrees to the District for review.  In the event that a degree is approved, the District shall provide compensation in accordance with the MOA, effective on the date the degree or program was achieved.”

This case was the primary example of the district’s duplicity.  We agreed to the creation of the universal guide as long as there was a mechanism in place to compensate staff for getting degrees that would have an impact on their classroom.  Instead, to date, the district has failed to do so, and the arbitrator has forced them to fix this.

It is important that any member who completed a degree or program get their paperwork together so the Consultative Committee will be able to review it.  If the program is approved under the terms of the contract, that member will be entitled to receiving up to $20K. 

4)      Peer Validators – The arbitrator ruled The district violated…the MOA to the extent that the Peer Validators it used during the Peer Validation and the consultation process feel outside of the contractual definition of individuals who can serve in the capacity of a Peer Validator.”

While this was a victory, unfortunately, the arbitrator also ruled that he didn’t have the legal authority to force the district to overturn the lost steps that resulted from this failure.  That power lies with the Commissioner.  We do believe that this ruling does strengthen our argument before the Commissioner on these issues, but that may still take some time to resolve. 

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We did not win all of the grievances that went before the arbitrator.

The arbitrator ruled that staff who retired while the contract was expired were not entitled to retro-pay. 

·         The arbitrator dismissed our claim that the district did not negotiate correct starting salaries for newly hired staff. 

·         The arbitrator also ruled that in the first year of the contract, it was unreasonable to expect the district would be able to pay the Highly Effective Bonuses before the school year ended.  That said, there is a lot of language in the ruling that suggests moving forward, we would have a strong case in the future if the Highly Effective Bonuses are not paid out during the school year.

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It is certainly possible that the district could try and draw the process out longer, but the arbitrator’s decisions and rationale behind each decision was well thought out and based on strong evidence and testimony.   As soon as we have a more specific timeline of next steps, we will send out an update.

I thank you all for your patience and the individual members who testified so successfully.  We did everything in our power to obtain this favorable award.  The wheels of justice turn ever so slowly, but justice has been achieved!

 

Thank you!

John M. Abeigon,

President,

Newark Teachers Union