City teachers voting on working to rule Poll returns showing strong support for withholding extras

January 29, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Preliminary poll results show Baltimore's teachers overwhelmingly favor taking a work-to-rule action -- doing no more work than required by their contract -- in response to a plan to dock them 10 days' pay to ease a $32 million budget deficit, according to union officials.

Irene B. Dandridge, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said yesterday that teachers at 10 of 11 schools polled so far favor taking a work-to-rule action. The city has 184 schools.

She said most teachers strongly oppose proposed pay cuts or pay deferrals.

"An awful lot of teachers are just discouraged and disgusted," Ms. Dandridge said.

She declined to identify the school where teachers rejected the work-to-rule action, but said it was one of the 35 city schools listed last week by state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick as being in need of special assistance.

Under a work-to-rule action, teachers would stop doing chores they now perform for free, such as meeting after school with parents, preparing lessons after class and supervising such extracurricular activities as plays and musicals.

Athletics would not be affected because coaches are paid, Ms. Dandridge said.

"Anything that teachers aren't paid to do they wouldn't do," she said.

Results from all teachers across the city will not be available until they are called in to BTU headquarters by building representatives in each school tomorrow night, she said.

But the move is being considered, she said, along with court action and a protest demonstration, in response to a proposal by Baltimore school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey to dock school employees two weeks' salary.

Dr. Amprey wants to address a $32 million budget shortfall by deducting one day of pay from every school employee's paycheck, including his own, for the last 10 paydays of the school year.

Dr. Amprey said he wants to defer the salary payments into employee checks until the budget year that begins July 1. But he acknowledged that he is unsure how the proposal would affect next year's budget and whether teachers could legally be reimbursed next year for a salary cut implemented this year.

"Under the law, the school system has to balance its budget every year," he said.

Dr. Amprey said yesterday a work-to-rule action by the teachers would be unfortunate, but that it "wouldn't change a thing" in terms of the school system's budget problems.

"If it went through, all this would do is hurt the children," Dr. Amprey said.

He said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke wants a week to study the payment-deferral plan before deciding on it. "Maybe we'll find a way to dodge the whole bullet. We'll just have to wait and see," Dr. Amprey said.

But Ms. Dandridge said discussion of pay deferments has upset and angered the union's 8,500 members, who won a 5 percent pay raise last summer.

Union leaders also point out that salary deferments would be a form of furloughs prohibited by the union's contract with the city.

Ms. Dandridge said the teachers may hold a rally Feb. 5 in front of City Hall to protest the proposed salary cuts.

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