Even though City Council Chairman Vincent Gray lavished praise on the architects of the landmark teachers union contract, he acknowledged that inequities exist and that those who have been impacted have looked to the Council for assistance.
In comments to the media, Gray expressed relief that the controversial contract, approved unanimously this week by the Council, had finally become a done deal.
However, he blamed its nearly three-year delay on mismanagement by Chancellor Michelle Rhee and disagreements between her and the city’s chief financial officer, Natwar Gandhi.
Gray also expressed concern over the 200 teachers who lost their jobs last fall in the wake of Rhee’s reduction in force and the plight of retired teachers, who are ineligible for retroactive pay.
Gray believes retirees should have been offered back pay, but said all parties must move on because the contract has been finalized.
“I believe [they] should be treated equally and my office has received numerous calls and e-mails requesting a remedy from the Council,” Gray said. “Witnesses criticized the inconsistency at a public hearing on the contract . . . However, the Council is only empowered to vote the contract up or down.”
The Washington Teachers Union repeatedly butted heads with Rhee during drawn out negotiations until both sides fell into agreement in May. In addition to providing a one-time retroactive lump sum payment to cover time teachers went without a salary increase, the contract provides them with a 20 percent salary increase through 2012.
WTU President George Parker said Council’s nod means things can proceed to implementation.
To that end, he said both WTU and the schools “must now work collaboratively” to ensure that the newly approved contract is executed “in a fair and equitable manner and is a living, working document, not just words on paper.”