In a 29-19 vote, the Cranston School Secretaries Union, Local 2044, rejected the tentative agreement with the Cranston School Committee that would have resulted $100,000 in savings. The agreement was on track to be signed by both parties until June 20, when details of the negotiation were leaked to the press.
“The outcome was definitely affected by the School Committee’s decision to release the terms of the agreement prior to the union vote. Members were upset over the release of information and consequently did not trust the School Committee,” said Ken DeLorenzo, executive director of Rhode Island Council 94, in a statement.
Earlier this week, School Committee officials said they do not know how the information got out.
“I have no knowledge as to the source of the leak,” Andrea Iannazzi, chairwoman of the committee, said in an e-mail.
Vice Chairman Frank Lombardi admitted that he answered general questions about the bargaining process but was not the source of the detailed concessions revealed to the public.
“I certainly would never reveal any specifics of an agreement until it was approved,” he said.
Included in the tentative agreement were concessions such as giving back two scheduled 1.5 percent wage increases and extending the contract another year without a raise. The secretaries will now receive their scheduled raises in July and January, and the contract will expire in June of next year.
Once negotiations unraveled, nearly 75 percent of the union membership decided to reject the concessions.
“They felt the School Committee’s actions showed a lack of respect for the collective bargaining process,” DeLorenzo said. “We approached the negotiations in good faith; it is too bad the committee did not do so as well.”
While the concessions amount to a $100,000 savings in the budget for next year, the union was to benefit through a clause that guaranteed no lay-offs through June 30, 2013. Now that the concessions are rejected, lay-offs may be imminent.
“I am disappointed that the tentative agreement with the AFSCME was not approved by the membership. Given the depth of the fiscal challenges facing the district, we will proceed with layoffs,” Iannazzi said.
Lombardi predicted that layoffs would be discussed at the School Committee’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, after the Herald deadline. He, too, said he was frustrated that Local 2044 “would turn their backs and reject it.”
“It was disappointing because all of our bargaining units have really come to the table and understand the plight that not just the school department is in, but the entire city,” he said, using the Cranston Teachers Alliance as an example.
The CTA is currently revisiting their contract with the School Committee, and preliminary discussions began last weekend.
“It was a nice start to the conversation. It was a very open, frank and honest discussion. I think both sides realized the dire situation,” Lombardi said.
Fortunately, he added, the concessions needed from the secretaries are not as significant as those budgeted for with other bargaining units, meant to help close the $5 million hole that remains.
“We’ve got to move on and hope our other bargaining units get it, and so far I’ve seen nothing but that,” he said.
Iannazzi is also “cautiously optimistic” that ongoing negotiations will yield more positive results.
“Cranston Public Schools’ employees are hardworking, dedicated and always put our students first,” she said. “They realize the budgetary challenges ahead and are willing to step up to the plate and offer meaningful concessions.”