High school teachers from four South Jersey Catholic high schools who are represented by the Catholic Teachers Union (CTU) have ratified a new four year contract ending an impasse over salaries and benefits and bringing a four day strike to a close.
Paul VI (Haddon Twp.), Holy Spirit (Absecon) and Camden Catholic (Cherry Hill) high school teachers ratified the contract Oct. 23 by a vote of 131 to 5. Sacred Heart (Vineland) teachers approved the contract October 26 by a 19-1 vote.
A six hour negotiation session on Oct. 22 yielded a tentative agreement and ended the strike by teachers from Paul VI, Holy Spirit and Camden Catholic. Teachers returned to classrooms Oct. 26.
The three schools operated on a modified schedule during the strike period with freshmen and sophomores alternating days with juniors and seniors. Administrators, staff, substitute and non-union teachers and union members who crossed the picket line provided supervision and instruction in the interim. Two of the days lost to the strike will be made up by the end of the school year.
The four year contract, which is effective retroactively to September 1, 2009, provides salary increases averaging about three percent per year, with a comprehensive benefits package for all teachers.
“The agreement is a strong one that is fair to teachers who are deserving of a just wage and to families who support school costs through tuition,” said Andrew Walton, spokesman for the diocese. “Negotiators are to be commended for balancing the concerns of all parties and working amicably and in good faith toward a mutually beneficial agreement that can be supported wholeheartedly by all,” said Walton.
Union president Bill Blumenstein said on the CTU website, “The union, on behalf of the teachers, thanks all parents and others who expressed their support for the teachers.”
The terms of the new contract include:
— Years 1 and 2: A 2.6 percent salary increase each in years one and two ($1,140 per year), with fully paid health benefits for all teachers and their dependents.
— Years 3 and 4: A 3.5 percent salary increase each in years three and four, with a 5 percent share in the cost of the medical coverage premium through payroll deduction for all teachers and dependents.
An extension of the contract from the initially proposed two years to four years appeared to provide the opening for negotiators to reach agreement. The schools had 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 on the average teacher salary of $43,500. Union officials were seeking the $1,140 per year, plus additional increases of 1.5 percent in year one and 1.75 percent in year two.
The schools also were proposing that teachers hired on or after September 1, 2009 pay 5 percent of the premium cost of the medical portion of their benefits through payroll deduction. This has been deferred to years three and four, at which time all teachers will contribute toward the cost of medical benefits.