Perth Amboy Federation-AFT members rally before Board of Education meeting

By Susan Loyer
Union credits community involvement with reduction in health insurance costs

PERTH AMBOY – After working last school year without a contract, Perth Amboy educators have a new deal that reduces health insurance costs.

The Perth Amboy Federation-American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1,600 members, voted Sept. 7 to accept the contract, which was approved by the school board on Sept. 8. The contract is in place through June 30, 2018, according to a statement.

According to the union, the deal is retroactive to July 1, 2015, so members will receive retro payment based on the salary guides for last year, which varies depending on experience and education.

“The framework for the increases in the salary guides for this contract is two-and-one-half percent (retroactive to July 1, 2015), two percent (retroactive to July 1, 2016) and two percent (July 1, 2017),” Nat T. Bender, spokesperson with the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey, said in an email. “Some groups will exceed that because some non-classroom staff, including security guards, had their work time extended from 10 to 11 months and will receive prorated pay and raises. Salary guides vary somewhat based on roles (teachers, custodians, paraprofessionals, secretaries and other school related personnel), experience in district and education. I’m proud of the local district, which did rallies, spoke to parents and circulated petitions. They are one of the first public sector unions in the state to break the pattern on health insurance costs.”

Health insurance costs were a big issue in the contract talks, union officials said.

“Our members have been struggling to pay health insurance coverage costs for the past five years due to continual price increases,” Perth Amboy Federation-American Federation of Teachers President Patricia Paradiso, a third-grade teacher, said in the statement. “Members needed to see a decrease in their health insurance contributions in order to actually starting bringing home more money in their paychecks and I’m proud that this contract achieves that.”

The settlement is a result of thousands of conversations with union members, parents and students, according to negotiations chair Donna Tartza, a middle school physical education teacher.

“We held rallies before and after school, went to Board of Education meetings to call for more negotiation dates, spoke to everyone in the community about the importance of having a fair contract for educators and collected signatures from thousands calling on the board to deal fairly,” Tartza said.

The union called for health insurance costs based on a percentage of salary, rather than on ever-increasing premiums, union representatives said.

“Our contributions will be stable for the duration of this contract,” Tartza said.

The percentage of salary contributed to health insurance is progressive based on salary so lower-paid members pay a lower percentage for insurance up to a maximum of 8.6 percent for those at the top of the pay scale, she said.

Significantly higher insurance rates for public workers in New Jersey were set in 2011 by statewide legislation.

“That legislation sunset last year, making it possible to negotiate lower costs,” said Tartza.

“This new contract is a result of all of us in the union standing up for ourselves and the Perth Amboy community, especially parents and students, recognizing the value of educators having fair contracts,” Paradiso said. “Having a competitive contract helps us recruit great new teachers and retain our experienced peers. I am proud that Perth Amboy Federation members are committed professional educators who demand to be treated fairly and want the best for our students and the district.”


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