Teachers ratify contract; agree to 4 percent pay cut


The Gilroy Teachers Association released Monday the voting results for its new collective bargaining agreement with the Gilroy Unified School District.

Results of the ratification vote consisted of 87 percent of teachers who voted “yes,” and 13 percent of teachers who voted “no.”

The contract sets policy and standards on working conditions; covering everything from wages, to class sizes, to the proper procedure on filing a grievance, to rules for parents who wish to visit their child’s classroom during the school day.

Language for the contract is drawn up and negotiated by the district and bargaining units, which include the GTA, California School Employees Association and Gilroy Federation of Teachers.

“The GTA executive board and GTA negotiating team realize that this was a difficult choice, and that many of you voted yes more to ‘move on’ than anything else,” wrote GTA President Michelle Nelson in a district-wide email sent Monday morning.

By “moving on,” Nelson is referring a tentative agreement (which was reached in March) to reduce the school year by three staff development days and five instructional days. These furlough days will be spread evenly spread over eight paychecks and equate to a four percent pay cut for teachers.

GUSD’s calendar year already reflects these changes, but teachers had until midnight Saturday to officially ratify the new contract and agree to the furlough days.

The four percent pay cut – coupled with the district’s refusal to put a cap on class sizes for grades 6 through 12, which have reached counts of 40 students – isn’t exactly appealing to teachers who are already grappling with a spike in health care costs. When you pair expensive benefits with a four percent pay cut, GTA Vice President Paul Winslow said the salary hit is actually closer to 10 percent.

For the average GUSD teacher making an annual salary of $65,643, just “four percent of my salary is a big adjustment,” said one anonymous teacher, who declined to giver her name for fear of workplace repercussions.

According to Kim Filice, Director of Human Resources for GUSD, teachers’ healthcare premiums have risen since 2009 by 36.49 percent for Blue Cross and by 23.3 percent for Kaiser Permanente.

Nelson, however, speculated last week teachers would likely ratify the contract, “If only to set aside their worry about when the cuts will happen, and how much their individual paychecks will be impacted.”

Provided the GUSD board of trustees officially approves the contract in a special study session scheduled for this afternoon, the payroll deductions are scheduled to commence in November and continue each month until June 2012. These pay cuts also apply to administrators.

While the bargaining units take a break for now, negotiations will start up again in January or February, according to Nelson.

Her district-wide email sent Monday included a list of “reminders” for teachers, which includes the following:

1. Teachers are encouraged to “cut back” on duties “as much as they feel they can,” while still serving the students.

This stance was originally expressed in a district-wide letter sent Oct. 10 by Nelson, which stated “as a response to the district’s continued unwillingness to negotiate” it is recommended “we should stop donating our time” for activities or meetings “for which there is no legal or contractual requirement.”

For teachers who choose to scale back on volunteering, Nelson said examples of opt-out activities may include participation in any district or site committees, such as the English Learner Advisory Committee, School Site Council, Gifted and Talented Education or grade level leadership teams.

Nelson did not encourage foregoing parent-teacher conferences, or certain meetings that are required by law.

2. If an administrator mandates “homework,” i.e., additional work outside the school day, a teacher is encouraged to immediately contact their site representative.

3. Teachers are encouraged to hold their site administrator accountable to the 75-minute maximum for staff meeting time.

4. If a resource teacher has more than 28 students on their caseload, they are encouraged to notify a site representative. Nelson wrote that “multiple grievances have been filed and won by the GTA” concerning this particular subject.

5. If a teacher teaches an activity-based class, and feels there are too many students in that class (without the teacher or department chair having been consulted about it first) that teacher is encouraged to file a grievance.

6. Nelson reminds that filing grievances is a “legally protected activity and no adverse action, including a negative evaluation, can be taken against any unit member.”

7. Nelson reminds the GTA “may file grievances on behalf of unit members for the good of the unit.”

9. Nelson reminds that if a teacher is sick, they should stay at home.

“If there are not enough subs, that is not your problem,” she wrote.

To read more about pay cuts and teacher morale, click here for last week’s story

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