About 160 members of the Catholic Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike Monday, October 20 in a contract dispute over salary increases and benefits.
A four year agreement between Paul VI High School (Haddon Twp.), Holy Spirit (Absecon), Camden Catholic (Cherry Hill) and Sacred Heart (Vineland) and teachers represented by the Catholic Teachers Union (CTU) expired August 31, 2009. That agreement had been extended to October 15.
Negotiators met Wednesday, October 14 but did not reach agreement on new contract terms. Two days later, union leadership called for a strike involving teachers from three of the four schools, Paul VI, Camden Catholic and Holy Spirit, which serve about 2,800 students. Union leadership did not recommend a strike for Sacred Heart, which is a sub-unit of the group. Union officials were given the strike authorization by union membership on October 4.
At press time, lead negotiators from the schools and union were scheduled to meet Thursday, October 22.
The last teacher strike in the Diocese of Camden was in 1997.
In wake of the strike action, each of the affected schools took steps to remain open during the strike period using a modified schedule, bringing in two grades per day and alternating them throughout the week. The schools are using administrators, staff, substitute teachers, as well as non-union teachers and union teachers who have crossed the picket line to supervise and instruct students.
The strike grew from a contract impasse involving salaries and benefits. The schools have proposed a two year contract with salary increases averaging about 5.25 percent over the term of the contract, or $1,140 per teacher per year. Union officials are seeking increases of about 9 percent over the two years: $1,140 plus 1.5 percent more in year one and 1.75 percent in year two. The average teacher salary is $43,500.
The schools are also proposing that teachers hired before September 1, 2009 continue to receive health benefits with no premium cost. However, union officials oppose the schools’ proposal that teachers hired on or after September 1, 2009 be asked to pay 5 percent of the premium cost of the medical portion of their benefits through payroll deduction.