North Bergen teachers union president discusses ongoing contract dispute


North Bergen Federation of Teachers President Elizabeth Lynch explained what the union is looking for in their contract, stating that the offer the district’s administrators accepted was not the same one they received. Elizabeth Lynch

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Dr. Solter is saying that the three-year offer we received mirrors what the administrators got, but it doesn’t. Their percentage pay increases reflect on their entire salary, while ours is on our base salary,” Lynch told Hudson County View on Wednesday.

Speaking with us one-on-one on Tuesday, North Bergen Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Solter revealed that the district’s administrators accepted a contract that will give them pay increases of 2.9 percent, 3 percent and 3.1 percent a year over the course of three years.

However, Lynch says their offer wasn’t identical because if a teacher’s annual salary is $56,000 with the potential to earn $8,000 in incentives, the 2.9 percent raise would go towards the $56,000 base salary instead of the $63,000 net income.

For the administrators, the higher figure is taken into consideration when they receive their raise, Lynch said.

She added that another thing that that has muddied negotiations this time around is that a recent ethics ruling by the state Department of Education says that anyone with family members working in education can no longer be involved with contract negotiations.

In North Bergen, this has taken Solter and Board of Education Business Administrator Steven Somick out of the equation, making things much more difficult than they have been in the past five of six years since Lynch began working on contract negotiations.

“After the state ethics ruling, we’re counting on two lawyers, money men, to retell the argument we said to them to Dr. Solter and Mr. Somick. It doesn’t feel like that’s happening here,” Lynch said.

Reiterating what she said at last week’s BOE meeting, the 21-year teaching veteran stated that the district initially offered the teachers a $4.6 million agreement over three years, which inexplicably was then reduced to $3.8 million before then becoming a $4 million offer.

She said the teachers have no intention of accepting that current offer, given that the deal would eliminate incentives for teachers that have a master’s degree and 45 or 60 additional credits, as well as cutting down the hourly pay of after school programs from $75 to $50.

“Administrators are earning $375 an hour for after school programs … they add titles whenever they want to, yet they never have money when it comes to what we’re doing. They find the money when they want to hire administrators.”

However, North Bergen BOE officials dispute the $375 per hour claim, citing the increased number of hours worked by administrators in the management and planning of after school programs outside of the actual instruction time, as well as time spent waiting for students to be picked up by parents.

They say this can total an additional four to five hours spent working each Saturday by the administrator. With this in mind, officials estimate the true compensation figure at approximately $100 per hour.

Although Lynch said she was not hopeful heading into a negotiation meeting yesterday afternoon, she texted Hudson County View afterwards stating “we made a lot of progress today,” indicating a deal could be in place as early as next week.

The NBFT have been without a contract since September 1.

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