Sunday Jul 31, 201104:13 PM GMT
Detroit teachers union protests pay cuts, high costs
Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:15PM
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Detroit's Federation of Teachers says it will fight a decision to cut public school teachers' pay and increase their healthcare costs to make up for a budget deficit.


The announcement comes after revelations that Detroit Public Schools (DPS) emergency manager Roy Roberts recently imposed a 10 percent wage cut on all employees and moved the district to a less costly benefits plan.



The wage concessions became effective on Friday, and teachers will see the effect of this change in their paycheck starting August 23. Reuters


The move, announced by Roberts at a meeting with leaders of eight unions representing nearly 10,000 employees, will save DPS $81.8 million dollars this year alone at a time when the district is struggling with a $327 million budget deficit.


Roberts became the first emergency manager of a Michigan school district to use the power of the state's Emergency Manager Law to modify existing collective bargaining agreements.


"This is not aimed at bad people. It's bad economic times. There is a dual crisis at Detroit Public Schools. One is academic -- this one is financial," Roberts said today.


Union leaders balked at the time, saying they would fight the move and had already given millions in concessions to Roberts' predecessor, Robert Bobb.


Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, which has 5,922 members, said the union will not accept Roberts' plan.


"He gave us his notice, now I'm about to take the action I need to," Johnson said this morning, declining to explain what that action will be. DET News


Johnson promised to file suit against the district in connection with an executive order Roberts signed Friday that modifies union contracts to help get $81.8 million in savings.


As a result, all 10,000 workers in the district -- union and nonunion -- will see a 10% cut in their paychecks on Aug. 23 and will begin to pay 20% of healthcare benefits costs Sept. 1.


The decision marks the first time that the state's new emergency manager law -- Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, Public Act 4 of 2011 -- has been used to modify collective bargaining agreements for school employees.


The contract modifications are part of the effort to eliminate the district's $327-million deficit, Roberts said. FREEP



The school district has already made cost cuts as part of the 2011-2012 budget, in part by cutting 796 staff positions and closing schools.


Other school systems across the country have made similar concessions. Last month, the Chicago Board of Education, the nation's third-largest school system voted to rescind a 4 percent raise for its teachers. Reuters


Public Act 4 of 2011 allows the state-appointed emergency manager to modify or terminate a union contract after meeting and conferring with union representatives. Last month, when Roberts released the 2011-12 budget, he announced that he intended to impose the cuts.


Union workers are part of a petition drive to repeal the emergency manager law through a ballot initiative. FREEP


In June, Pontiac dispatchers became the first Michigan public employees to have a contract voided under Public Act 4. The Oakland County city received state approval to cancel union contract protections for 10 police dispatchers, allowing the city shutter its police department to help cut into a budget deficit of more than $10 million. DET News



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