Representatives of Prince George's 7,000 teachers will meet tonight to consider whether they should offer to make wage concessions as an alternative to the school board's plan to eliminate 917 employes because of budget cuts.
After last week's approval of massive layoffs because of a $31 million budget cut approved by the County Council, three school board members suggested that the school employes' unions might consider giving up some portion of a 6 percent pay hike negotiated last year or accept a payless furlough for a 10-day period to save funds and some jobs.
But teachers union leader John Sisson does not favor any givebacks. "Our board of directors had a meeting to discuss the ideas thrown out by board members Bonnie Johns, Angelo Castelli and Doris Eugene and after a very emotional session we reaffirmed our support of the negotiated agreement," Sisson said. "We don't feel we are responsible for this situation," he added, noting that even with concessions, "hundreds will go in any event."
More than 200 teachers, who comprise the union's representative council and come from each of the county's schools, will debate the decision of the union's executive board tonight at what Sisson predicted will be a stormy meeting, pitting protection of the hard-won contract against the desire to save coworkers.
"The way I read it right now, staffs are split," Sisson said.
"There are going to be some sparks," said another union official. "They don't want to open up the contract because it will give Mr. Hogan the county executive and the school board another shot at them. The other side feels they don't want to see their colleagues hurt--they want to be altruistic and egalitarian," the official said.
According to union rules, actions of the representative council are not binding on the executive board.
The presidents of the two smaller school unions, representing 366 bus drivers, custodians, maintenance and clerical workers scheduled to lose their jobs, have told the school board they are willing to negotiate concessions in their contracts to keep some of their members employed.
"We are willing to sit down but we have not had any meetings with the administration yet and none have been scheduled," said Jim Shearer of AFSCME Local 2250, which represents some 4,000 nonteaching employes. Shearer could not say what concessions will be placed on the table before the new school fiscal year begins on July 1, but his members are set to receive a pay raise similar to the teachers this year.