On September 8, 2020, lay teachers from the 17 high schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia represented by the Association of Catholic Teachers, Local 1776 (ACT 1776) will gather to vote on a new Labor Management Agreement (LMA).
Negotiation teams from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Catholic Education (OCE/The System) and ACT 1776 began meeting regularly in July. They will continue working through the weekend in an effort to reach a tentative agreement. Discussions to date have been substantive, but few proposals from either side have been agreed upon at this time.
In advance of the final round of discussions, the System is sharing an update involving key issues it has brought to the negotiating table. This same information was shared with all teachers serving in Archdiocesan high schools earlier this afternoon.
- Salary and Benefits. There will be no change in teacher medical plans and no increase in their medical rates. The pandemic has brought significant financial challenges to the System due to difficulties some families have in paying tuition as a result of increased unemployment rates. The System has also seen a reduction in donations and increased costs in preparing schools for the fall because of the pandemic. Despite these financial issues, the System is prepared to offer a modest salary increase for teachers.
- Adjusting to Enrollment Declines. Teacher salaries and benefits are paid from tuition income. We hope to open school with an enrollment close to our projections and we have even had some inquiries from public school students interested in transferring because parents are not satisfied with the lack of an in-person instructional model. However, the enrollment environment is fragile given current circumstances. If Archdiocesan high schools are required to be virtual only or if one or more schools experiences a spike in COVID cases, there is a possibility that a decline in enrollment could occur during the school year.
Enrollment declines mean that the tuition revenue will not be there to support all of the positions in a school. Therefore, the System is seeking a one-time only ability to reduce staff during the year to address this potential situation. It would only be adopted if the enrollment dropped by more than 3%, a high threshold. Teachers constricted under this emergency situation would have the ability to move to open positions in their field of competency. The System would not need to exercise this clause if all parties work together to maintain a strong enrollment base.
- Pandemic Issues. Instead of requesting the ability to make pandemic related changes through a Force Majeure clause, the System has been working with ACT to identify specific issues and address them in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) relative to the pandemic. The System has already agreed to the items requested by ACT and is working to address a handful of issues to resolve this MOU.
- Management Prerogative, Article 1, Section 8. The System continues to request the opportunity for our schools to be able to initiate programs which allow those school communities to be more competitive in their market area; for example, the ability to adjust to a non-traditional schedule or to create programs which allow for specialization of a department or program. While these functions are possible in our present LMA, they are not nimble and often involve a lengthy process to move from concept to implementation. This is the type of flexibility the System seeks with this proposal.
Recently, there has been some discussion of the potential for a strike in the media by the union leadership team. The System firmly believes that a strike would not be in anyone’s best interest, particularly our school families, especially as we all navigate the challenges of this pandemic. During a strike scenario, teachers are docked at their per diem rate for every day of a strike. Not every strike day would be made up, so whatever gains there would be in salary would be lost due to the docked days in the event of a strike.
Our educators play a critical role in supporting our students in their growth and development, spiritually, academically and through their co-curricular activities. The System is grateful for all that they do and will support teachers as they work in the context of our new hybrid learning environment.
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Editor’s Note: The contract negotiations pertain only to the 17 Archdiocesan high schools. There are approximately 500 full-time lay teachers who are members of ACT 1776.
Parish and regional Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are not affected by this process.
For more information on Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia please visit www.aopcatholicschools.org/.Contact:
Contact: Kenneth A. Gavin
Chief Communications Officer