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Cranston Teacher's Union: Contract Dispute is about Fairness

Union officials said they filed an unfair labor practices complaint after the district reportedly threatened to outsource teacher assistants during contract talks.

The head of the Cranston teacher's union said the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Labor Relations Board last week after school officials threatened to outsource teachers assistants during contract talk.

"We believe this is not bargaining in good faith," said Lizbeth Larkin, head of the Cranston Teacher's Alliance. "This group of employees are  among the lowest paid in the state and the concessions that the Cranston school committee was demanding would have caused additional financial hardship for these people.  When we couldn’t agree, then the school committee threatened privatization by stating they were going to put out an RFP for these services."

A day after the superintendent of Cranston Public Schools called out the Cranston Teacher's Alliance, blaming them for stalled contract talks, the head of the union has responded by saying the union has already given up millions in concessions in recent years.

"In 2011 when the Cranston Public Schools was having serious financial issues, the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance negotiated a contract reopener and gave back $5.1 million so that the schools could successfully move forward from 2011-13," Larkin said. "When we began this latest round of negotiations over a year ago, the Cranston school committee was still adamant about further concessionary bargaining.  We felt, and still feel, that all of our groups that work very hard and have given back deserve fair and equitable contracts."

School officials said earlier this week that the union's most recent offer was to increase compensation and benefits by 4 percent and that is money "we simply don't have," said Superintendent Judith Lundsten.

That proposal would consume virtually all the additional money Cranston will be receiving over the next few years as the fair funding formula doles out millions in extra state aid, school officials contend. That money is expected to stabilize by 2018 and school officials worry that the district will find itself strapped for cash in the long run.

They also said the extra costs from the proposal would leave no money for new programs and initiatives like all-day kindergarten.

But the union has made it clear that it will stand behind teacher assistants. And both sides said they have a history of working collaboratively, despite the recent setbacks in the contract talks.

"The Cranston Teachers’ Alliance has a long history of working collaboratively and reaching agreements and we will continue to do," Larkin said.

"We are at the negotiating table already. Mediation continues and we will continue to negotiate in good faith with the funding we have at our disposal," Lundsten said.
Rick bell June 19, 2014 at 06:32 PM
Oh please the retired teachers are getting no increase. What have you got to say
Darcy Mollo June 19, 2014 at 08:26 PM
I am a proud Cranston teacher and I can say, with 100% certainty, that we want nothing more than an equitable contract. Our negotiating teams have been working for over a year with a school committee that has been unavailable and unwilling to negotiate. Administrators have received raises, even those who just started in Cranston in September, 2013 and it is unclear what these raises were based on as some with excellent reputations and respect were passed over. We cannot continue to go backwards while the cost of living continues to increase. I love what I do and am very proud to teach in the city of Cranston, but demand equitable treatment.
Joanne Spaziano June 19, 2014 at 09:54 PM
Fair and equitable contracts for all bargaining units of the Cranston Public schools are in order here. The school committee is attacking the lowest paid teacher assistants. Pay those people a living wage. They work one on one with students who are most at risk. They have to take the Praxis in order to be certified. They are the LOWEST paid teacher assistants in the state and you still want to cut into their pay. This is not just about the teachers. Secretaries were forced to take "furlough days" better known as days without pay as cuts in their paychecks! The custodians took a big hit so that the school committee would not privatize. Oh and by the way, privatizing the FOOD SERVICE in Cranston has led to a huge LOSS not a SAVINGS! And the food in the cafeteria...well...ask your kids! Think things are getting better? Better take those rose color glasses off and start looking at the reality of the situation. The school committee broke the law therefore an Unfair Labor Practice has been filed and not the first one. As a resident and tax payer in Cranston as well as a proud teacher in the Cranston school department I see this from both sides of the fence. Start looking at the facts and then form your opinion instead of basing your opinion on heresay and dribble that turns up through comments posted by those less than informed.
Rick bell June 20, 2014 at 04:16 AM
Cranston can't afford higher taxes for you teachers. Pay more for yr health care. Become a state worker or a cop or fireman better off. Don't vote for Gina there is a liar
nicole fine June 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM
I hope the CTA doesn't support or endorse ANY of the current sitting SC when it comes to elections this year! And, if they do, oh, well, you lie with dogs, you're gonna get fleas!1

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