BTU pay raise urged

Arbitrator suggests 1st-year boost of 4% for city teachers

Health plan wouldn't change

Union leaders say they'll reluctantly recommend approval

September 18, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

An arbitrator in the summer-long impasse between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city recommended yesterday that teachers receive 4 percent raises in the first year of a proposed two-year contract, maintain current health care options and that elementary school instructors set aside extra time each week to prepare for classes.

The current contract between the BTU and the school system expired June 30.

Union officials said last night that they will reluctantly ask members to accept the proposal, which includes a 3 percent raise in the second year. They said they had strong reservations.

The wage package would make Baltimore teacher salaries competitive with those in Baltimore County.

The arbitrator's proposal "doesn't meet the needs of Baltimore teachers," said Marietta English, BTU co-president. "But a rejection of the fact-finding panel's findings would not be in the best interests of students and teachers."

J. Tyson Tildon, chairman of the Board of School Commissioners, said he was encouraged by the report and that it moved the two sides close to a settlement.

Robert Booker, chief executive officer of the school system, could not be reached for comment.

The report also recommended two additional preparation periods each week of 45 minutes each for elementary school teachers. Many teachers balked, saying that would amount to a heavier workload that would nullify pay increases.

The report follows rancorous negotiations with the 7,000-member teachers union. The union and the school board began negotiating in the spring, but talks quickly broke down over pay, health care and work hours.

Last month, the school board voted to give teachers the 4 percent wage increase. But a board proposal on health care sparked fear among the union members that they would lose the option of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield coverage.

In July, state school superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick declared an impasse and convened a three-member panel -- one person from each side and a third, neutral member -- to arbitrate the issues.

Those named to the panel were Christolyne Buie from the board, Thomas O. Flood of the union and independent participant Mollie H. Bowers.

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