Principals Union Sees Back Pay as Stumbling Block in Contract Talks

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The union representing public school supervisors says it's hit a "major stumbling block" in its contract negotiations,because City Hall refuses to give retroactive raises to members who used to be teachers.

"I thought that this contract would have been done by the end of June," said Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

In June, the teachers union approved a nine-year contract with retroactive pay raises dating back to 2009. The whole package adds up to more than 18 percent. The first retroactive installment doesn't come until 2015 and the last isn't paid until 2020. As a result, teachers who leave the school system before the contract expires miss out on those raises, along with any teachers who get promoted to assistant principals and principals.

The supervisors union said nearly a third of its 6,000 members are currently affected, because they were promoted from teacher to supervisor between 2009 and 2014. It said up to 70 percent of its members may be in the same position by 2020, because so many supervisors historically come from the ranks of teachers. 

Logan said the teachers who were promoted should still be allowed to collect the raises they earned during the time they worked in the classroom. 

"All I'm saying morally is that to say to someone who has earned this salary that now you're not going to get it, I think there's a problem with that, a major problem," he said.

City Hall declined to comment, citing ongoing contract negotiations.

Union leaders said the most experienced teachers (who make about $100,000 a year) could wind up losing out on tens of thousands of dollars if they get promoted before 2015, when the first installment is due. They would also lose out on future installments. Assistant principals' salaries start at $98,000 annually, while principals can make between $100,000-$150,000 a year.

"It seems as it would serve as a disincentive for people to take a promotion," said David Grandwetter, the union's general counsel. "And it certainly wouldn't help principals were trying to woo the best and most talented people into the assistant principalships and ultimately principalships."

They also warned that police and firefighters face similar issues: if they negotiate retroactive wage increases it may affect their members also traditionally get promoted to positions covered by other unions.