The Baltimore Teachers Union overwhelmingly rejected a city proposal yesterday that its members defer a 6 percent pay raise as part of the city's efforts to freeze wages and save $38 million in salary costs.
"I'm not willing to wait until I retire," said Marcia Griswold, a special education school employee, who said she would not be able to retire for 20 years. "They can put it in the bank and get interest, and I can't?"
Teacher delegates from Baltimore's 180 public schools rejected the proposal during a meeting at the Polytechnic Institute on West Cold Spring Lane.
In lieu of a pay increase this year, city negotiators had offered to give teachers and school para-professionals a deferred lump sum payment equal to 6 percent of their June 30, 1991, salary levels, payable when they left the school system.
But teachers union leaders, who said the mayor was asking their members to make too large a sacrifice, instead are offering to have union members recoup the 6 percent increase in 2 percent increments over a three-year period. The 6 percent increase would be added to any future pay increase negotiated when the current teachers' contract expires next year.
Jesse E. Hoskins, acting labor commissioner for the city, said the union's counterproposal was unacceptable because it required the city to promise to fund future pay increases at a time when the city's fiscal future was unclear.
The teachers union is the third city union to balk at accepting the wage freeze proposals. Already, unions representing firefighters and police officers have said they will take the city to court rather than voluntarily give up 6 percent pay increases won through binding arbitration last year and scheduled to begin July 1.
City negotiators have searched for a compromise pay increase formula since March, when Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke asked the 12 unions representing roughly 28,000 municipal employees to defer expected pay increases this year to allow the city to weather tough fiscal times.
Mr. Schmoke said then that he would try to structure an agreement with the unions that would allow city workers to recoup their lost wages when the city's financial picture improved. The mayor, who is legally required to present a balanced budget despite disappointing revenues and escalating costs, has said that without the wage freeze, 2,000 employees would lose their jobs and some services would be disrupted.
Although the teachers made their position known yesterday, it could be weeks before all of the unions have decided whether to accept the city proposal. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 6,500 mostly blue-collar city employees, will vote on the proposal in late next month, according to Glenn S. Middleton, the Maryland director of AFSCME Council 67.
"We can't make a decision before it goes before the general body," Mr. Middleton said. "But on a positive note, the membership has been pleased with the mayor as far as upgrading folks who hadn't been upgraded in 10 years."
Mr. Middleton said Baltimore officials had ignored his union's proposal to replace the 6 percent increase his union was scheduled to receive July 1 with a 2 percent increase July 1 and a 4 percent increase Jan. 1. He said city negotiators also rejected a suggestion that employees be given additional days off to make up for the lost pay increase.
Both teachers and AFSCME union leaders said that by pressing for concessions from the unions, the city could be inviting efforts by union members to win their own mid-contract concessions from the city.
Teachers said they could ask to repeal a contract provision that has extended their work day by 20 minutes. And Mr. Middleton said his members had concerns about the increased use of private companies -- such as contracted trash recyclers, landscapers and janitorial companies -- to do work once done by union employees.