Unionized school employees in Detroit were dealt another blow today as Emergency Manager Roy Roberts wiped away their union contract and cut the wages by 10% across the board. This comes after Detroit Public School (DPS) employees accepted a major wage concession just a year and a half ago.
Wielding power under a new state law to modify union contracts, Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts this morning imposed a 10 percent wage cut on all employees and moved the district to a more costly benefits plan.
The move, announced by Roberts this morning at a meeting with leaders of eight unions representing nearly 10,000 employees, will save DPS $81 million dollars this year alone at a time when the district is struggling with a $327 million budget deficit.
Roberts first announced the wage concession when the district released its annual budget last month. Union leaders balked at the time, saying they would fight the move and had already given millions in concessions to Roberts’ predecessor, Robert Bobb.
As the Detroit Free Press reports, this affects a large number of Michiganders and sets a new precedent:
All 10,000 workers in the district – union and nonunion – will see a 10% cut in their paychecks on Aug. 23 and will begin to pay 20% of health care benefits costs Sept. 1.
The decision marks the first time that the Public Act 4 of 2011 – the new emergency manager law – has been used to modify collective bargaining agreements.
Some of the details:
- Suspend payments for any sick days remaining unused at the time of an employee’s retirement
- Suspend implementation and payment of any annual increments
- Suspend payments for oversized classes to teachers in kindergarten through Grade 12
- Suspend payment of any longevity bonus
- Suspend payment for any preparation periods lost by the teachers
- Suspend payments of any certification bonuses
- Suspend any premium payments for special education personnel and suspend payments of any assault pay
In addition to the 10% wage cut and 20% benefits contribution, the other union employees contracts will be changed to:
- Suspend payments by the district for any sick days remaining unused at the time of an employee’s retirement
- Suspend payment of any longevity bonus and suspend implementation and payment of any annual increments
The bitter irony in this is that DPS employees should be probably be getting paid more considering their work environment. It takes courage and dedication to be a teacher in Detroit. Their working conditions, from crumbling infrastructure to gang and other violence, make their job considerably different from their counterparts in most other school districts across the state. The DPS has long been run by corrupt and/or incompetent administrators and school board members and has been described by some as a “personal ATM” for people who embezzled money or otherwise profited personally. Now the teachers are being asked to pay the price.
I don’t know what the solution is for Detroit schools. An $81 million deficit is profound. Roberts describes the DPS as having “dual crises” — academic and financial. With this move, in my opinion, he is attempting to solve one of the crises by making the other one worse.