Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PCS: Mandate Relief & The Case for Hiring Legal Experts

The public hears, time and time again, the complaint that unfunded NYS mandates are a huge and unfair burden on public schools. At a pubic budget forum several months ago, the PCSD superintendent specifically mentioned the need to repeal the Triborough Amendment (to the Taylor Law).  NYSCOSS (the NYS Council of School Superintendents) and NYSSBA (the NYS School Boards Association) are among the most vocal opponents of the Triborough Amendment.

This 1982 mandate requires that all provisions in an expired labor agreement, including step increases (raises), must remain in effect until a new contract is agreed upon. Thus, expired contracts carry little incentive to bring labor to the table eager and motivated to settle a new contract. A timely settlement of contracts is beneficial to both management and labor.

"In the 1970's, the state Court of Appeals ruled that Triborough Doctrine did not require payment of automatic 'step' increases after expiration of a contract which is why public employee unions fought for the stronger law (the Triborough Amendment). They got it, in (not coincidentally) a statewide election year, over the strong objections of the state's local government and school board organizations, and against the advice of Hugh Carey's own Budget Divisions analysts."

The reason it is so important for Board members to study and learn about all facets of their jobs as local officials is that they would question whether the PCSD may have done something that contract attorneys have told Board members across NYS never to do. Never, they say, put provisions of the Triborough Amendment into local union contracts.

Why should this be avoided? Well, if the Triborough Amendment were ever to be repealed, school districts that included Triborough language in their contracts would still have to adhere to the provisions of that law, that mandate.

In Article II of the PCSD contract between the Teachers' Union and the Superintendent of Schools, the following is written: "It is understood that the terms and conditions of employment provided in this Agreement will remain in effect until altered by mutual agreement in writing between the two parties."

In my opinion, it appears that at the PCSD, the reprieve from the Triborough Amendment would only occur if:

  1.  the law was repealed by legislators in Albany (highly unlikely) and then
  2.  the superintendent could get the above-cited provision negotiated out of the local contract (even more unlikely).

Once again, the need for legal expertise is called for when agreeing to contracts that have long-term and far-reaching consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment