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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Teachers’ wages

An editorial written by By Richard P. Harkawik P­resident, Wal­lingford E­ducation Association – as published in the Record Journal on Saturday February 20, 2010

A common misconception concerns the salary increase Wallingford teachers received as a result of the last contract nego­tiations. The belief that all teach­ers received a 4.2 percent in­crease in salaries this year is not accurate.

The 4.2 percent represents a percentage of last year’s salary account.This “pool” of money is then used to first pay the cost of increments that are part of the contractual salary schedule; the remainder is then applied to all teachers as an increase. Thus, a 4.2 percent increase does not add 4.2 percent to all salaries. In fact, the majority of teachers re­ceived a 2 percent increase this year, as opposed to the national wage increase average of 2.8 per­cent. Much time was spent dur­ing negotiations in determining how we could “fix” the salary schedule so that it would be more evenly balanced between the different steps, and to make Wallingford more competitive in attracting and retaining quality teachers.

In fact, Wallingford lagged be­hind almost every other town in New Haven County when salary schedules were compared. In or­der to make Wallingford’s salary schedule more equal with the other towns, the 4.2 percent in­crease was necessary. Addition­ally, the teachers also made sev­eral concessions to help this happen: a step freeze this year, and the addition of one step in the schedule. Teachers now have 13 steps; other town unions have between 3 and 5 steps.

The contract itself was ap­proved by the Board of Educa­tion and the Town Council, dur­ing the worst of the economic crisis. Both had the opportunity to reject it; neither chose to do so. It was not long after this con­tract was passed last year that teachers were asked for give­backs. This year, again, we have been asked to make concessions. One has to wonder why agree­ments are made if the intent is not to honor them.

The process of negotiating a contract involves give and take. Wage increases are negotiated in the context of other components, such as insurance co-pays, premium shares, and other ben­efits. Aiming for this balance,the contract was negotiated in good faith, and we now look to the mayor and town council to honor their commitment to the education of our town’s children at the level of excellence they have always received from the teachers of Wallingford.

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