No back pay coming for thousands of ex-UFT members

Updated Saturday, May 3, 10:51 a.m. — Thousands of city teachers and school staff members who worked between 2009 and 2014 and then left their jobs won’t get any extra money under a new contract agreement between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, even though a new contract applies to those years, union officials said Friday.

And in another cost-saving move, current members who worked between 2009 and 2011 will need to continue working in schools until 2020, or retire, if they want to collect all of their retroactive benefits for that period.

That’s because of the way the new contract has structured back pay disbursements from the first two years without a contract, when most of the other city’s public employees received 8 percent raises. Money from that time are going to be distributed in five chunks between 2015 and 2020. Rather than paying for the raises up front, the union and the city agreed to both kick the costs down the road and spread them out over several years.

Eligible UFT members who quit before the first scheduled payout, in October 2015, won’t get any of those payments. (They will, however, receive the first of a series of salary rate increases.) The city will cut a second pay check in October 2017, a third check in October 2018, a fourth in October 2019 and a fifth in October 2020.

Teachers will still receive smaller retroactive payments for the two most recent years when they ratify the contract, which could come as early as this month, according to the union. All members will also receive a $1,000 signing bonus upon ratification.

Current members will also see salary rate increases of between 1 and 3 percent yearly from 2013 to 2018, and those who worked between 2009 and 2011 will see additional, 2 percent retroactive salary rate increases each year from 2015 to 2018.

But for the biggest retroactive payments, from 2009 to 2011, teachers get cut off after they quit, the union said. A UFT official could not say if this included teachers who become principals and a spokeswoman with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union representing city principals and assistant principals, did not respond to requests for comment.

At least 4,000 UFT members, who resigned between 2009 and 2011, according to the union’s attrition numbers, will not receive any benefits from the new contract. Another 4,200 teachers left over the next two school years, although some many have started teaching after 2011 and wouldn’t be eligible.

In the past, UFT members received retroactive checks within months of ratifying their new contract. In 2005, for instance, top-paid teachers received a $5,771 lump payment for 28 months worth of back pay, according to the New York Times.

The new contract’s delayed payments speaks to the unusually large sum of money, an estimated $3.4 billion, that the UFT demanded in negotiations. But it also speaks to the city and union’s emphasis on rewarding teachers who stay in the school system. The contract also includes a new compensation system and bonus program aimed at retaining teachers.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a former UFT president, said on Twitter yesterday that the union would have have “liked it for all,” referring to the raises, but added that there is plenty of precedent to leave former union members out of retroactive benefits even if they worked during that period. 
But it’s still coming as news to many teachers who have already left the school system, or making plans to leave.

One fifth-year teacher who is looking for teaching jobs outside of the city said she was frustrated that she might not receive the back payments.

“I’m not happy about it,” said the teacher, who asked for anonymity because she did not want her school to know about her job search. “I put in the time, just like every other teacher in the city during that period.”

Andrei Berman, who taught in New York City schools during the 2009-2010 school year,  said the extra money would have been nice, but that he wasn’t torn up about it.

“To be honest, I can’t say I deserved it because I didn’t teach long enough to really be that deserving,” said Berman, who left teaching after two years.