NFT files labor complaint against Norwalk BoE

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Federation of Teachers has filed a prohibited practices complaint against the Board of Education.

The BoE has attempted to intimidate the union membership by making inaccurate public comments, NFT President Mary Yordon said in a statement late Tuesday, confirming information received by NancyOnNorwalk that the union has filed a complaint with the State Board of Labor Relations.

This crisis stems from a $6.6 million 2017-18 NPS operating budget shortfall; the city allocated money for the NPS budget based on the assumption that millions of dollars could be saved by switching NPS from a self-insured health benefit policy to CT Partnership 2.0. But the NFT refused, according to the BoE.

Up until now, NFT leadership has not elaborated on its issues with CT Partnership 2.0. Complaints relayed in Yordon’s statement include the possibility that teachers will have to switch doctors. It’s probable that many will have to switch specialists that they rely on, she said, commenting that the NFT is not the BoE’s ATM machine.

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton, at a recent BoE Finance Committee meeting, estimated that 75 teachers would need to be laid off to make up for the budgetary shortfall, if the NFT did not agree to the insurance switch.

Yordon’s statement was sent to the NFT membership and NoN at 10:20 p.m.:

“The Norwalk Board of Education is in the midst of a budget crisis, exacerbated by foot dragging and lack of planning.  The NFT is taking this crisis very seriously and has offered suggestions for solutions.  Our new contract is in full force and effect until 2019. We are not obligated to open our contract, but we tried to negotiate an extension in exchange for doing so.  The Board refused our proposal, and has informed us that it is not willing to negotiate.

“We proposed a deal very similar to the one struck between the Board and NFT in 2003, when our contract was extended and the insurance was changed to resolve a budget crisis. What we asked for this year was essentially a status quo extension of the contract with raises in line with other towns in the area that have already been negotiated.  We didn’t ask for the moon & stars…just certainty for our members and their families. In 2003, the Board negotiated; this Board refused. This Board instead made inaccurate public comments intending to mislead and intimidate the union and its members, prompting us to file a prohibited practice complaint.

“Board members have been repeatedly quoted as saying that our members would not have to give up anything if we change to the new plan. This is simply not true. The proposed plan would cause members to seek new doctors, comply with HEP requirements previously not in place, and experience new limitations and bureaucratic requirements of managed health care protocols. The new network includes about 85% of the same doctors. The doctors missing from the new network are the specialists that people are typically most reluctant to switch, such as pediatricians and mental health care providers. We continue to be willing to negotiate in the best interests of the students and the city.  However, to give up a benefit in exchange for nothing simply isn’t logical.  We’re not the city’s personal ATM machine.

“Moving to the new plan would save the Board roughly $4,500 per employee. Our members with families would save about $400 per year, and those with individual coverage about $130. Two-person coverage would yield a savings of about $34 per member.

“Their plan appears now to rely on layoffs to reconcile the budget. These layoffs are unnecessary. The subsequent disruption is unnecessary. The resulting class sizes and reduced options will negatively impact the education of students, and disrupt programs and careers.  It is not clear why the Board feels so strongly that negotiations are not acceptable. There is a clear need, and a clear precedent. They are choosing layoffs when there are other options. It appears that avoiding negotiations at any cost is the strategy, even at the cost of quality education of our students.”

BoE Chairman Mike Lyons was not available for comment.

Lyons on April 20 instructed district leadership to prepare for “significant layoffs.”

“They demanded a two-year contract extension (to an unheard of 5 years) with raises we can’t afford,” Lyons said on April 20. “And they did it not as a counter to 2.0 (which would save their own members money), but as a blatant attempt to leverage the possible layoff of their own members to force us to capitulate.  Which we won’t do.”

The switch to CT Partnership 2.0 would cost NPS $3.15 million less than the existing plan, Hamilton said recently. The BoE could then roll its insurance fund into the $6.6 million budgetary shortfall and address a remaining $800,000 gap without layoffs, he said.

The BoE’s budget request was 10.1 percent higher than the 2016-17 budget; the city funded a 4.5 percent increase, while keeping the average mill rate to a 1.8 percent increase, pending the results of the state budget process.

NFT leadership attended Tuesday’s BoE meeting, where NFT First Vice President Joe Giandurco said to the Board, “To publicly call for layoffs, to attack our leadership, to ignore and belittle our attempts to solve the budget shortfall is wrong.”


Drewt May 19, 2017 at 7:21 am

Eventually the NFT will have to switch plans but maybe we can give them a reality shot and save the jobs of their members beforehand . And maybe they can actually start acting like adults go back to the table and actually try and. Work this out. But instead, they love to pout and cry and claim they are being picked on. Time for the Exec Board to grow up and welcome to the 21st Century! Let’s see how membership feels when the payroll has to shrink?! I know the residents are going to be pissed off! And we know where the blame is! If one member gets laid off they should take the President and VP with them! Go back to the table and WORK THIS OUT!

Norwalk Native May 19, 2017 at 7:49 am

“The proposed plan would cause members to seek new doctors, comply with HEP requirements previously not in place, and experience new limitations and bureaucratic requirements of managed health care protocols. The new network includes about 85% of the same doctors. The doctors missing from the new network are the specialists that people are typically most reluctant to switch, such as pediatricians and mental health care providers.”

Guess what, that is a modern reality that most of the rest of us have to contend with annually. The constant whining from these over-priveledged and out-of-touch elites is infuriating. If they truly cared about the children, they would not be using them as pawns. Fire as many as possible.

Ryan May 19, 2017 at 8:03 am

Yordon should consult both her math and history teachers before she issues a realease. Lots of errors in her statement … I hope our classroom teachers are doing a better job than she is!

Concerned May 19, 2017 at 8:12 am

NFT leadership attended Tuesday’s BoE meeting, where NFT First Vice President Joe Giandurco said to the Board, “To publicly call for layoffs, to attack our leadership, to ignore and belittle our attempts to solve the budget shortfall is wrong.”

And that is the problem. The NFT is blatantly ignoring the solution that is right in front of their faces. THEY are the ones ignoring a very plain as day solution to the budget shortfall, change their insurance. No loss of jobs, the children win, problem solved.

I only hope that the Board stands up to this nonsense and makes a decision and stands by that decision. The longer the Board drags their heels the more we have to deal with this back and forth bickering and nonsense. Change the insurance plan and let’s all move on with our lives!

Pragmatic May 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

“We didn’t ask for the moon & stars…just certainty for our members and their families.”

Um, yah you are.

Here’s the reality. These exorbitant packages the teachers currently have are out of reach. This isn’t the 1980’s anymore – we are dealing with a whole new ball of wax with a crazy economy. How is it, we offer the most lucrative salary/benefit package in the entire state, yet, our test rankings are in the toilet in comparison to surrounding towns?

With the amount of money we are offering our educators, we should be attracting professors to teach our youth which would produce the highest test scores in the state. Families would BEG to buy homes here in the city and enroll their kids.

These teachers are replaceable. You see all these new graduates who are looking for teaching positions? Time to bring them in and get rid of these greedy long-time tax-dollar moochers!

Lisa Thomson May 19, 2017 at 9:49 am

An excellent op-ed piece by columnist Chris Powell highlights the reasons for the fiscal problems in the state of Connecticut and then takes it down to the city and suburb level in an article called – “Suburbs – Confront Your Employee Costs.” I applaud the BOE for trying to protect student and taxpayer interests. Enough is enough.

Donna May 19, 2017 at 10:24 am

I struggle with NFT’s portrait of the union as innocent victim of BOE greed or mismanagement. I was never a fan of Ronald Reagan, and I did not like what he did to the Air Traffic Controllers. But sometimes it is necessary to push back against municipal union contracts. We should approach these contracts the same way we approach greedy corporate interests. With skepticism and an intent to correct inequities. Support of excellent public schools and reasonable employees costs are not incompatible interests. In the case of the NFT, the health insurance contract is a reasonable place to lower costs. If the NFT doesn’t think its members can switch pediatricians, then they are telling their members to expect layoffs as a result of union intransigence.

Patrick Cooper May 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I for one think this is just wonderful. Keep digging the hole your standing in! Every action taken by the NFT leadership since Mary & Joe took the helm strips away the sanctimonious veneer they cleverly cloaked themselves with – creating a blatantly false aura of concern for the students. Now the true stakeholders – parents, and taxpayers (not mutually exclusive), can see without filters the true nature of this union. When it comes to Norwalk, they take no prisoners – including their own membership. No – it is the entity itself – the “Union” (not the members), that must be served. Negotiations will always start with the premise that they are going to get more. Regardless. I see Mary & Joe at the concierge desk of the Titanic, demanding an upgrade because of all the screaming.

I truly cannot think of a subject that has had a more universal impact on individuals than healthcare. Philosophy aside – every person I know has had to deal with skyrocketing premiums, changing networks and doctors, pre-existing condition hurdles, medical staff trained to generate revenue masked as care. The idea that the union should be exempt from these changes and challenges demonstrates deaf, dumb, and blind leadership. That they would now sue shows you the tactics in their playbook – and should encourage the Norwalk stakeholders to support equally rough and tough tactics by our BOE. For those of you whining about how this teacher or that teacher is a good person / friend / neighbor / and it’s so wrong, tell them to change their leadership internally (if they can) – and get on with a real partnership with your employer: us. I can’t hash-tag better than Lisa Thompson – so I’ll just say #NFTmeansNorwalksFinancialTerrorists.

carol May 19, 2017 at 2:32 pm

enough is enough,if the nft does not want to be realistic and grow up to live in the real world,then fire all of them and let the new savvy teachers take over. so tired of them acting like they are being picked upon.

NPS Educator May 19, 2017 at 11:06 pm

As a 10+ year educator in the NPS system, it is disheartening to read the comments posted here. We work hard, we care about our students, and we also need to care about our own families as well. Living in this area of the country is expensive and if Norwalk wants to attract and maintain a quality group of educators they need to be prepared to compensate on a level that is competitive with neighboring towns and cities. Standing by a contract is a great place to start.
We have endured a revolving door of administrators in Central Office for years. As a result, we have had to change gears every time with each new take on the pedagogical buzz words of the latest administrator training seminar. Our union representation is the only group looking out for those of us who remain regardless of the names on the Central Office letterhead.

When this negative rhetoric surrounding educators rears its ugly head, the community can be assured of one thing and one thing only: Good teachers will teach where they feel valued. The cream of the crop will get skimmed off and float over to another district where they don’t have to pay for classroom supplies (like tissues, pencils or paper towels). Budget issues make educators less likely to sign contracts. When that happens, you lose the best graduates and experts in our field- there are few, if any, teachers left worth hiring in August. Do some research on the number of NPS long-term subs in shortage areas like math and science on the secondary level and ask yourself if you want a high school senior being taught Physics by a substitute all year. Slowly, over time, this reputation of educator-aversion leaks into the candidate pool and quality people just do not apply.

Please support us- we want what is best for the kids otherwise we would not be here.

cc-rider May 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

NPS Educator- this has nothing to do with being valued. It is simple math that anyone can follow if you have an ounce of common sense. Switching insurance carriers is not a big deal and happens all the time in the private sector. I do not blame the BOE one bit for their approach as the union is turning a non-event into a opportunity to ask for something more.

Donna May 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Teachers under contract to the BOE are required to work no more than 188 days per year. We should value high quality teaching staff. Norwalk wants to lure in the “creme de la creme” out of the applicant pool. But it’s also helpful to remember how many days a year they work. Teacher contracts account for most of the budget in any given year, and most of the budget increases from year to year. Assuming an ordinary white collar professional gets 6 weeks vacation per year, he or she still works 230 days per year. My son works for Success Academy in NYC, a successful charter school with a very different educational model. They hire young, bright, educated teachers, train them on site, and pay them generously. However, they also expect more out of them–more hours per day and more days per year. My son’s direct supervisor was educated as a lawyer. You simply cannot win the argument that charter schools uniformly do a worse job educating children than public schools.

If the NFT does not agree to some reasonable settlement on the health care plan, down the road, maybe sooner rather than later, the charter school movement will not only displace some members of the NFT, but the charter schools will be funded through the BOE and will occupy space in the public school buildings, just as they do in NYC. Yes, we all appreciate great teachers. Just bear in mind that those whose tax dollars support this contract work about 50 more days per year than the teachers who benefit from it. I was an active volunteer in the Westport Public Schools and served on a curriculum review committee and other committees, and these experiences definitely shaped my impression of how the union is often the tail that wags the dog.

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