August 2, 2008

Diocese Offers Contract Teachers Union Chief Blasts Document As One-Sided

By Sarah Hofius Hall, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Aug. 2--While refusing to work with or recognize its teachers labor union, the Diocese of Scranton has developed a proposed contract for its educators that would govern issues such as sick days and compensation.

The president of the teachers union scoffed at the document Friday.

"It's not a contract, in any way, shape or form," said Michael Milz, union president. "It's nothing we didn't expect."

Since the diocese announced earlier this year that it would not recognize the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers as a collective bargaining unit, educators have lamented working without a contract. Through the diocesan employee relations program -- the diocese's answer to not having a union -- a draft contract was developed and reviewed.

The three-page contract spells out:

-- Length of school year, 185 days.

-- Number of sick days per school year, 10, with a maximum accumulation of 45 days. Employees will not be paid for unused days.

-- Health insurance premium of $80 a month for single coverage or $125 a month for a family plan.

-- A pension plan with a 3 percent of salary contribution from the employee, and a 7 percent contribution from the employer.

"We were looking for input from the teachers, and they came up with some very good suggestions that have since been incorporated into the contract," James Burke, Diocesan director of human resources, was quoted as saying in this week's edition of the Catholic Light, the diocesan newspaper.

A space for teacher salaries is blank in the contract, and a human resources firm is now analyzing the teacher pay scales.

The contract has been sent to the employee councils for final review, according to the diocese.

Mr. Milz, who was laid off by the diocese in June but continues to be union president, said the document -- which he refused to call a contract -- was one-sided and incomplete.

Before the diocesan school system was restructured prior to the 2007-08 school year, individual parishes recognized the union.

When the union was recognized, the shortest contract was 40 pages long and included information on tenure and all aspects of working conditions, Mr. Milz said.

"It's a standard type of employee agreement," Mr. Milz said. "The employer is dictating the conditions of employment."

On Friday, the diocese defended the contract, and in a statement called it "one of the results of the fruitful dialogue" taking place between school employees and the diocese.

"When Mr. Milz calls it a sham, he is denigrating his own colleagues," according to the diocese. "But that's not surprising, since he previously labeled those who are participating in the employee relations program as 'poor deluded dupes.' Apparently, this is how he feels about anyone who disagrees with him or refuses to send him union dues."

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