On Day 2 of strike, Neshaminy teachers cut back picketing

On Day 2 of the Neshaminy teachers strike, union members cut back their picketing of district schools and canceled their usual demonstration before school board meetings tonight, a union spokesman said.

After picketing all 12 schools Monday, the union shortened the schedule to six schools for Tuesday and Wednesday, the spokesman said – Neshaminy High School, Maple Point Middle School, and Oliver Heckman, Walter Miller, Herbert Hoover, and Lower Southampton elementary schools.

The union also told teachers to “stand down” and not demonstrate at Maple Point’s two driveways before the school board’s 7 p.m. public work session, the spokesman said. There were several incidents of eggs and fruit being thrown at picketing teachers Monday, and the union wants to avoid possible fights or confrontations before the meeting, the spokesman said.

An emotionally charged audience of nearly 800 teachers, parents, students and other residents is expected to fill the auditorium. During the union’s eight-day strike in January, about 30 community members were turned away from a board meeting once the auditorium’s legal capacity was reached.

“There is a silent majority of community members who are out there,” union Vice President Jeff Dunkley said Monday. “I hope they will pack that place and tell the board, ‘You need to be reasonable with these teachers.’ ”  

All classes were canceled for the second day.

Both sides were waiting for the state Department of Education to set a deadline for the 633-member uinon to return to work to complete the 180-day school year by June 29. That deadline is expected to be June 18 at the latest.

The teachers are completing their fourth year without a raise, working under the terms of the contract that expired in July 2008. After 39 negotiating sessions and a recent non-binding arbitration. both sides are still far apart on retroactive and future raises, health care contributions and retirement incentives.

The union is seeking 80 percent of missed raises, including for education and service time. It also has proposed annual wage increases of 1 percent to 3.25 percent from last year through the 2013-14 school year.

The school board maintains it cannot afford any retroactive pay, except for education credits. It has offered 1 percent raises for this year and each of the next two years.

Under the district’s proposal, base salaries would range from $42,552 to $96,883 this year.

The teachers, who have never contributed to their health care coverage, have offered to pay 8 percent of the annual premiums, compared to the district’s proposed 15 percent.

And they have offered to reduce the $27,500 retirement benefit after 10 years of consecutive service, plus free insurance coverage for them and their dependents, while the district is seeking to drop the benefit.