Labor Board Denies Burlington Teachers Back Pay for 2017 Strike | Off Message

Labor Board Denies Burlington Teachers Back Pay for 2017 Strike


Burlington teachers picketing in front of Burlington High School in 2017 - FILE: KATIE JICKLING
  • File: Katie Jickling
  • Burlington teachers picketing in front of Burlington High School in 2017
The Vermont Labor Relations Board has ruled against Burlington teachers seeking reimbursement for pay that was docked during a four-day strike in September 2017.

The labor board found that the Burlington School Board was within its rights to decide to withhold teacher pay for days "when they did no work," according to a July 9 opinion dismissing an unfair labor charge.

The ruling noted that the employer, or school board, "made it clear both before the strike and following the strike that teachers would not receive pay for the time spent on strike." 

Furthermore, the ruling pointed out, the Burlington Education Association signed a contract with no promise of reimbursement for the days.

Burlington Education Association president Andrew Styles declined to comment on the decision, as did Vermont-National Education Association director of communications Darren Allen. 

Burlington Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng and Burlington School Board chair Clare Wool did not respond to requests for comment.
The union argued that its leaders believed the reimbursement would happen indirectly if the school year was extended by four days with pay.

But rather than extend the calendar, Obeng revised it by switching teacher training days to school days in order to meet state requirements for the length of the school year.

The union argued that the decision undercut the 2.5 percent raise teachers negotiated for 2017-2018 in order to resolve the strike.

The union also argued that it sought to discuss the issue of the revised calendar after the strike, but that the board had "no interest" and adopted the revised schedule without sufficient input.

The labor relations board decision noted that teachers signed a contract that didn't contain any language explicitly addressing reimbursement for the strike days.
The union has been fighting for reimbursement for more than a year. It filed a grievance over the issue and lost in arbitration in March of this year. In the subsequent unfair labor charge filed with the Vermont Labor Relations Board, the union argued that the matter was still not settled.

The board disagreed in an opinion available here:

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