“At this time it is unclear if school will open on time,” said Pat Crowley, an official with the National Education Association of Rhode Island, the union that represents all school employees except the custodians since they were outsourced.
An email sent from Superintendent Phil Auger confirmed the potential strike.
“Right now both sides continue to meet, and we are doing all we can to avert a work stoppage, but I am writing to you to give you some advance notice to make contingency plans for your children’s care should the NKESP go forward with a strike,” he said in an email to parents.
According to Crowley, the 150 education support professionals (in other words, the non-teachers at NK schools) plan to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before Tuesday morning. Mary Barden, president of the NK teachers’ union, said she does not expect that teachers would cross the picket line. They plan to vote on the matter tomorrow afternoon.
Earlier this summer, all 26 school custodians’ salaries were cut by an average of $13,000 when the North Kingstown School Department outsourced their jobs to GCA, a private corporation that provides janitorial services mostly to the private sector.
While a contract has been signed with GCA, Crowley said the school committee still has about 30 days left to legally nullify the deal without recourse.
In June, the School Committee voted to privatize the custodians jobs after the education support professionals agreed to make $400,000 in cuts. NEA-RI has filed a grievance because of this, saying their members met the demands expressly requested by the committee’s attorney.
Since signing the contract with GCA, the SEIU also filed a complaint over the contract because of an agreement with GCA that states if the company does business in New England it has to pay employees commiserate with SEIU prevailing wages. This would nullify any savings the School Committee would realize by outsourcing the custodians’ jobs.
Crowley said the union members will go back to work when the School Committee agrees to abide by the deal the two sides agreed to in principle in June, which would save the school district $400,000.