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Pittsburgh Teacher Union Won’t Negotiate Seniority Rights in Furloughs

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers will not discuss with Superintendent Linda Lane the possibility of leaving seniority out of furlough considerations. Earlier this week the Pittsburgh School Board voted to direct Dr. Lane to work with the union to change the current furlough process, omitting seniority rights as a determining factor. Union President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said that's not an option, and the language in the school code and collective bargaining agreement is clear when it comes to the furlough process, and should stay as is.

"There is no other fair and objective way to pick and choose who should stay and who should go," she said, "and we're quite fearful that it could potentially become a popularity contest, a witch-hunt, or a strictly money-making thing."

Esposito-Visgitis said the union has always worked well with the school board, and she thought she'd made it clear that taking seniority out of the picture was non-negotiable. When the board voted on the resolution, she said it was a complete surprise. Rather than taking this action, she said the board should have gone another way.

"The resolution that the board could have passed was to work with the union to address funding from Harrisburg," said Esposito-Visgitis.

The PFT said seniority systems in union contracts are in place to protect due process rights and to protect employees from arbitrary dismissal. Teachers with seniority are often paid more than newer teachers, so Esposito Visgitis said there's a fear that doing away with seniority rules would make them more vulnerable targets.