Council Calling SRC, Teachers Back to Bargaining Table

Every member co-sponsors resolution urging labor peace.

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

It’s not easy to get unanimity from the Philadelphia City Council. But every single member has signed on to sponsor a resolution asking the School Reform Commission and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to call a truce in their battle and head back to the negotiating table.

“Everybody knows in our city, you’ve got to negotiate,” said Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who introduced the resolution, then got each of her colleagues to sign on as sponsor. “Our school system’s in too much trouble not to negotiate to resolve these issues.”

The resolution (see below) comes weeks after the SRC said it was unilaterally canceling its contract with the PFT and forcing teachers to pay for a portion of their health care. The move was expected to immediately produce  $15 million in savings that the school district promised to plow directly into schools. But a judge issued an injunction against the district proceeding with the plan.

That leaves both sides in limbo for now. On Wednesday, representatives of the school district and the teachers insisted they were willing to negotiate. The City Council resolution, however, indicates the two sides haven’t formally met since July.

“We made that very clear … when we took the action of canceling the contract. We’re looking for a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible,” said Fernando Gallard, the district’s spokesman. “We continue to be ready to meet with PFT, and we remain committed to reaching a comprehensive settlement.”

George Jackson, a spokesman for the PFT, said his side never wanted to cease negotiations.

“In a nutshell, we never wanted to leave the bargaining table. The SRC left the bargaining table. We were continuing to negotiate in good faith.”

Blackwell said the dispute is testing the patience of Philadelphians. “The public feels there’s no concerns about education for their children,” she said.

Of course, City Hall has more than polite persuasion in its toolbox. The city has provided both direct funding for Philadelphia schools, and has authorized a cigarette tax as an income stream for education. But Blackwell indicated that using the power of the purse to compel an outcome between the SRC and PFT isn’t a desirable step right now.

“Would that we could at this point,” she said. “I would say that everything on the table is open. We’re willing to do whatever it takes.”

The resolution vote is today. The council meets at 10 a.m. in City Hall.

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