New York State In-depth

Third-party report applauded by BPS, torn up by teachers union

The 22-page report was compiled by a third-party fact finder.

BUFFALO, NY — Buffalo Public Schools and the Buffalo Teachers Federation remain at odds over contract talks after a report intended to strike a middle ground between the two drew widely differing reactions.

The 22-page report was compiled by an independent fact finder hired by the New York State Public Employment Relations Board following a request from the district negotiation team last summer.

Fact finder, Robert J. Reden, made recommendations on how to resolve a number of issues that the district and Teachers Federation have been unable to agree on for the past three years.

After weighing the facts and figures presented by both sides during a series of hearings, the report released Monday sided strongly on most of the sticking points, including wages, benefits, working conditions, health insurance, the bell scheme and the appointment of athletic trainers BPS .

BTF President Phil Rumore was quick to respond Tuesday night when the report was released. He and his negotiating team promptly rejected the report, calling it unacceptable, false and misleading.

“You go into fact finding, you know, and you feel like there has to be something mutually agreeable and each side will agree or disagree. But this thing was completely one-sided,” Rumore told 2’s page on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Buffalo Public Schools negotiating team welcomed the report, calling it a “blueprint for an agreement” that will anchor their positions going forward.

“We hope to negotiate some of the other issues that have not been addressed in the report. They know that every day that goes by is money out of our teachers’ pockets. Every day, every delay, every day you wait is money you should be getting,” said BPS General Counsel Nate Kuzma.

When asked if the district believes the report will help or hurt their case, Kuzma said it is to be expected.

Rumor has it that he and the union are less confident and will put the report’s findings to the vote of all union members with a negative recommendation.

“Usually when it’s impartial, there’s give and take on both sides, they didn’t give the Buffalo teachers anything,” Rumore said.

Kuzma added: “If you take an unreasonable position and you’re so far out there, I understand, even if it’s a principled approach, but if you’re so far out of reality and then you keep doubling down. Isn’t it being rewarded by someone who’s neutral and looking at it from the outside.”

Kuzma called the fact finder report “the end of the road” in terms of negotiation options, aside from appointing a PERB (Public Employment Relations Board) Super Arbitrator to help with the arbitration. He added that the mediation team will present the report and seek the opinion of the Buffalo Board of Education.

But ultimately, only the BTF and BPS negotiating teams can decide which deal to agree to.

Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams added: “We want a contract for our teachers. We have settled 10 out of 11 with various unions and various bargaining units within the district and we will not rest until we get 11 out of 11. “

Both the district and the union hoped to resume negotiations in the coming weeks.

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