Green: PFT negotiations going backward

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Bill Green said the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been emboldened by his removal as SRC Chair.

The Philadelphia School District and its largest union are back at the negotiating table, the gulf between the two sides has widened, officials said.

Bill Green, who was recently ousted as School Reform Commission chairman in favor of Marjorie Neff, said he believes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been emboldened by their strong ties to Gov. Wolf, and by his removal.

"Our negotiations with the PFT have gone backwards, not forward," Green said on Monday. "I'm afraid that they are getting encouragement for that intransigence by this action."

Green has said he believes Wolf does not have the authority to remove him, and will soon file court papers to attempt to halt the action.

The PFT and American Federation of Teachers, the national union, were key to getting Wolf elected, and Green indicated that those groups - who have been strongly opposed to him - were part of the reason for his removal and Neff's ascension.

The district and PFT met over the weekend. Talks were halted for months after the SRC unanimously voted to cancel the PFT's contract in October. Commonwealth Court judges recently ruled that action was invalid, a ruling which has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said he was concerned that the two sides appeared now to be further apart.

"Where there may have been some flexibilities, positions have hardened," Hite said, adding that "we will continue to negotiate and try to work through this, as we have done in the past."

Hite declined to go into specifics on which issues the PFT had changed its position on. The district is looking for sweeping changes to work rules, as well as the economic terms it had sought with the contract cancellation - essentially saving millions by having teachers pay a portion of their health care costs.

The superintendent said he was worried that the SRC leadership issue was taking focus away from other issues.

"In a time when we really should be talking about investments and budgets and the work that we're trying to accomplish, instead, we're talking about governance once again," Hite said. "I'm concerned about it being a distraction."