Ed Townsend | Democrat
Members of the Sullivan County BOCES Teachers Association wearing their black “We Matter” tee-shirts at the beginning of school work sessions Wednesday morning.
BOCES teachers wear black in protest
Story by Ed Townsend
LIBERTY September 6, 2013 Members of the Sullivan County BOCES Teachers Association wore black shirts to work Wednesday morning as a sign of unity in acknowledgement of their collective bargaining agreement entering a new school year without a successor agreement.
Bruce Abbott, president of the Sullivan County BOCES Teachers Association, noted that members will wear the black shirts every Friday until an agreement is finalized.
Abbott and members of the teachers association gathered in front of the main BOCES entrance at 8 a.m.
The union president noted “that the gathering was to show unity and collaborative effort of the 120 members and we wanted to let [the administration] know that we haven’t forgotten that we still need a collective bargaining agreement and we felt today was the day to start.”
The agreement expired November 2012.
“The last time we have had negotiations was February of 2013, and we reached an impasse and we’re going through mediation and the mediator only gave us one date in February and we haven’t met since,” Abbot said.
The union president pointed out “that the district has proposed one date this month, and we’re looking for them to confirm the date and hopefully it will be more frequent as we move on.”
As to what the BOCES teachers’ unit is looking for in a new contract Abbott said, “We’re looking to maintain the position that we’ve held within the county, which is the middle district. We work with populations that have intense needs and diversities, and we’re looking for recognition in that as we move forward.
“We’re not looking for anything that is out of line with other county contracts,” he added.
As to salary and medical benefit requests, Abbott pointed out, “We have asked for the county average, and we are not looking to take the district or the county into uncharted territory. I believe county raises have been approved at about one and a half percent.
“We are all cognizant of the economic times that started in 2009, but yet we are aware that things have gotten more difficult to live with as well within the confines of our salary restraints and benefits,” Abbott added.
Continuing the discussion about the economic times everyone is faced with, the union president pointed out the BOCES teachers have stepped forward “with the establishment of the Back Pack Operation to help send food home with students over weekends, and we are very aware of what goes on in this county because we are such a large demographic of it and are not just isolated to one town as we service all eight school districts and some districts in Orange County and elsewhere.”
Asked if he believes a new contract can be reached this year Abbott said, “I always claim to be the optimist in the room, and I would hope so because the knowledge that is available to all of us should allow us to rationally sit and communicate to one another.”
BOCES District Supt. Larry Thomas could not be reached for comment.