City teachers threaten job action

Union seeks a contract agreement before Aug. 30

August 03, 1999|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Teachers Union threatened a job action yesterday if no contract agreement is reached before school begins Aug. 30.

"It won't be just the teachers," said BTU President Marietta English. "We have the support of all the labor unions." It wasn't clear yesterday if other school unions would take part in the action.

School teachers can stage a "work-to-rule" job action, in which they would refuse duties not required in their contract. Many teachers do extra work, including overseeing the cafeteria, coming to school early or staying late for meetings with parents or children and keeping order in the halls.

While those duties have little to do with the daily classroom teaching, the lack of staff in the cafeteria or the halls could leave schools chaotic.

The Baltimore school board is negotiating contracts with several unions who represent the school staff, including cafeteria workers, assistant teachers and maintenance employees.

The BTU is the only union with which talks have stalled. State School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick declared an impasse in late June. She convened a panel of three -- one member representing teachers, one representing the school board and a mutually acceptable "fact finder." The fact finder's report is expected by August 23, less than a week before school starts.

English said she hopes an agreement will be reached this month, but the two sides have not talked formally since June.

If the teachers do not agree with the fact finder's recommendation, said Edie House, a school board spokeswoman, then they legally can take a job action. "If they decide to exercise that option then, we will look at how to make sure the schools are well-staffed," House said. She would not detail what precautions school officials are taking.

No matter what the outcome, she said, the school system will open schools Aug. 30.

The talks broke down over salary, health care and work hours. A BTU bulletin issued last month says the school board wants teachers to pay more for health care, work longer hours and accept a 1 percent pay increase.

The school board would only confirm that pay, health care and work hours are the issues.

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