NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Federation of Teachers is willing to negotiate, President Mary Yordon said Friday.
On Thursday, the Board of Education Finance Committee unanimously recommended budget cuts totally nearly $2 million. The 2017-18 Norwalk Public Schools budget was built with an assumption that Norwalk teachers and other school employees would move to a state health insurance plan, but the Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) has not signed on.
“The Board of Education has proposed roughly two million dollars of cuts to our schools to respond to the budget crisis. Cuts are needed now, but could have been avoided. The Board’s inflexible position is the reason we are in this crisis. The NFT is not opposed to discussing the State 2.0 plan. We have tried and remain willing to negotiate to find a solution that is mutually beneficial to solve the budget problem. We made an offer, but they refused to negotiate. Our collective bargaining agreement actually allows for a change in health carrier that is not satisfied by the State plan, and so negotiating is required. They are negotiating with other smaller labor units, but not us.
“Our students will pay the price for obstructionist arrogance. We remain ready to serve them despite the many challenges.”
BoE Chairman Mike Lyons responded with this email:
“This statement by Ms. Yordon is a pretty accurate description of the NFT’s behavior. NO other union in Norwalk has tried to use this financial crisis to line its own pockets. The NFT has caused these layoffs, and bears 100% of the responsibility for the consequences.”
Yordon’s written statement echoes comments she made Thursday to NancyOnNorwalk, after the Finance Committee announced its recommended cuts.
“They have a labor complaint filed against us so they took (negotiating) off the table,” BoE Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek said, responding to Yordon’s comment.
The NFT complaint alleges that BoE members made inaccurate, misleading public statements to intimidate union members.
The recommended cuts would eliminate all 43 kindergarten aides, two Brookside pre-school teachers and four Brookside preschool para-professsionals.
NFT members re-elected Yordon and other union leaders this week. Yordon has been president since late 2015, elected after the sudden death of NFT President Bruce Mellion.
Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton said Thursday that it would be possible to reverse the cuts but, “We would have to move very quickly.”
If all the bargaining groups shifted to Connecticut Partnership 2.0 by Sept. 1, “I think there would be some prospect to reversing some of this,” Hamilton said.
“We were hoping to get everybody on this plan, save the city money, save the members money,” Meek said. “What happened from there, it’s hard to say.”
Meek said he understood that it is daunting to change doctors.
“Our HR department would pull those doctors into this network, but you have to say, ‘My doctor is not in this network.’ We don’t know. It’s HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) laws,” Meek said. “Tell us and we’ll go to them. There is no reason that doctor would not want to go into a network of providers that could potentially get every municipal and state employee in their back pocket… Why would they not want to go on what could potentially be the largest shared pool? This was the single payer concept, 2.0, on a contained state level, at least for municipal level.”