PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Remember when Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and teachers’ union president Maribeth Reynolds-Calabro called a press conference to announce a new union contract?
Someone forgot to tell the Providence City Council.
In a letter sent to Elorza and several high-level administration officials this week, council Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi said he has “several concerns” that need to be addressed before the tentative agreement can move forward.
- Read: Igliozzi’s letter to the mayor | Proposed teachers’ contract
- More: Teachers unlikely to have new deal before school starts
- Also: School board president opposes Elorza budget
Chief of among them is a provision in the proposed pact known as a “parity clause,” which states that teachers would be eligible for larger pay increases if the city’s other municipal unions receive raises of larger than 1% by June 30, 2016.
The agreement Elorza and Reynolds-Calabro reached in May already calls for teachers to receive a 1% increase at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, a 1.75% increase at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year and a 1.5% on the final day of the 2016-17 school year.
But Igliozzi said he wants to know if a previously negotiated 3% raise for the city’s firefighters’ union that kicked in July 1 would result in a larger pay increase for the teachers. He also expressed concern regarding the mayor’s proposal to restructure the fire department by moving from four platoons to three, a plan that will require firefighters to go from working an average of 42 hours per week to an average of 56 hours.
If the firefighters are given a 5% raise for a 33% increase in their work week, Igliozzi stated, it is “highly likely that the parity clause would be activated” for teachers. He said that could cost the city an additional $10 million.
“There are many concerns with regards to this parity clause,” Igliozzi wrote. “The language in this parity clause is ambiguous and does not contain any conditions or qualifiers for [fiscal year] 2016 increases for other city unions.”
Elorza’s office has repeatedly said it doesn’t believe a pay increase for the firefighters as part of the department’s restructuring plan would trigger the pay increase. Reynolds-Calabro has repeatedly said she believes her members would be entitled to a matching raise.
In his letter, Igliozzi suggested the parity clause should either be removed from the proposed agreement altogether or the teachers should agree to not seek a pay increase as a result of the fire union’s raises this year.
A spokesman for the mayor’s office declined to comment specifically on Igliozzi’s letter, but said the administration will review his requests. Reynolds-Calabro made it clear she wants the council to vote on the agreement.
“All I can say at this point is the Providence Teachers Union negotiated in good faith, the membership ratified the tentative agreement, and the mayor and I both signed the tentative agreement,” she said. “And I am waiting for the City Council to approve the tentative agreement two months later.”
City Council leadership has said it isn’t planning to vote on the contract until after it returns from its August recess. The agreement will first be vetted by Igliozzi’s Finance Committee before it is sent to the full council.
Igliozzi’s other concerns with the proposed contract aren’t new ones.
In April, he sent a letter to Elorza requesting that all new union contracts make changes to healthcare benefits and pensions for new hires, although he didn’t specifically state the changes he’d like to see. He sent another letter in June after the mayor announced the signing of the teachers’ contract questioning why “structural, long-term changes” weren’t made in the deal.
In his letter this week, he again questioned why the agreement doesn’t include healthcare benefit and pension changes.
The teachers worked the entire 2014-15 school year without a new contract after the union overwhelmingly rejected an offer from former Mayor Angel Taveras. The teachers’ primary concern with that proposal was a provision that would have paid teachers more for taking on additional responsibilities, but lacked clarity over how the policy would work.