Principals won't get negotiated raise

Philadelphia School District principals were promised a raise on Jan. 1, but the cash-strapped district has said it’s not paying.

In September, 2011, the local chapter of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators agreed to defer the three percent pay hike they were owed for a year. They agreed to the concession, union chief Robert McGrogan said at the time, because his members understood how bad the district’s finances were. (Layoffs that were threatened were also averted with the concessions.)

The three percent raise was supposed to show up in next week’s paycheck, whose particulars members can see beginning today. McGrogan found out this afternoon that the money’s not coming.

“Tarnishing is an understatement for what it has done to their credibility,” McGrogan said. “I believe the SRC has no integrity for the collective bargaining process.”

The principals’ contract expires in August; the two sides met to talk about opening negotiations earlier this week, and will start talking next month.

The double whammy of a change to Social Security payroll taxes and no raise means that “people’s net pay is going to be hundreds of dollars less than they’re expecting,” McGrogan said. “I don’t see their gas bills or their mortgages going down.”

In a statement, district officials said they asked CASA members to forego the raise, but they refused.

“The School District of Philadelphia is in serious financial distress, as indicated in the five-year financial plan that was issued this past year,” spokesman Fernando Gallard said the in the statement. “In order to reach fiscal stability as outlined in that five-year plan, we have asked all our employees to contribute to assist the district in meeting its financial challenge.”

That financial plan projects a deficit of over $1 billion over the next five years, if corrective action is not taken. It banks on millions in labor concessions to balance the books.

Gallard pointed out that the district’s blue-collar workers have already made significant financial concessions, and that non-represented employees took pay cuts, too.

But some non-union central office employees got pay hikes this year. (District officials say it was because most took on extra work or filled new jobs.)

McGrogan said his workers already agreed to concessions, and that the district’s action expressly violates the document officials signed last year, whose language he includes: “The SRC, by ratifying this agreement, irrevocably commits that it will not, during the life of this agreement through August 31, 2013, exercise any statutory authority it may possess to cancel, renegotiate or otherwise set aside this agreement.”

His members may be paid more than some other district workers, McGrogan said.  But that doesn't give the district the right to violate an agreement.

The union will pursue arbitration, McGrogan said.

The district’s school police union is in a similar situation. Its members were due a three percent raise in June, and never saw it, said Michael Lodise, union chief.

“We’ll win our case in arbitration very easily, but I”m just worried about getting the money once we win,” Lodise said. “This system is in shambles right now.”

The SRC, under the state takeover law, does have special powers that allow it to cancel contracts in times of fiscal distress.