After five years and two strikes, Neshaminy teachers ratify new contract

A five-year labor impasse between a Bucks County school district and its teachers union appears to be all but over.

On Monday night, the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers ratified a new contract overwhelmingly. The vote was 487 to 21.

“It’s a relief,” said Louise Boyd, president of the NFT, following a private, members-only meeting inside Carl Sandberg Middle School in Levittown, Pa. “I have said multiple times how respectful I am of the members. It has been a long way and they stuck through thick and thin and the atmosphere was very celebratory.”

The seven-year contract, which is back-dated to 2008, still needs to be approved by the school board.

If affirmed, teachers would receive a fixed pay-raise of between three and five percent based on seniority and education credits.

Teachers would also have to pay some of their health care premiums for the first time.

Starting in July, teachers will have to cover 14 percent of their health care costs. That’ll go up to 16 percent a year later.

The contract does not include any retroactive pay. It expires in June 2015.

Twice the Neshaminy teachers went on strike during the contract impasse.  Things got so tense that even during last year’s presidential election, in many parts of the district there were more lawn signs supporting the school board or the teachers’ union than for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

As colleagues hugged nearby, Anne Schmidt, vice president of NFT, said she’s hopeful labor negotiations will be smoother moving forward.

“It’s been a lot of distractions and I think that will slowly change. There are a lot of hard feelings that have to be overcome and I think we can do that I just think it’s going to take some time,” said Schmidt.

Ritchie Webb, president of the Neshaminy Board of School Directors, said Monday night that he expects the nine-member body to ratify the contract with “no problem at all” during a special meeting scheduled for June 13.

“Hopefully we can go to work on what’s good for our children,” said Webb. ” I think we certainly made a step in that direction tonight. At least the NFT did and we’re very, very happy.”

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