Committee to Notify Court of Teachers’ Defiance of Back-to-Work Order
WARREN, R.I. (AP) _ School officials today asked that 115 striking teachers be cited for contempt because they returned to the picket line despite a back-to-work order, but a judge postponed action and ordered intensive bargaining instead.
Superior Court Judge Paul Pederzani Jr. appointed J. Troy Earhart, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, a special master in the talks.
Acting at the request of Gov. Edward D. DiPrete, the judge gave Earhart authority to compel the two sides to negotiate in an effort to break the salary and benefits dispute that prompted teachers to strike April 21.
Pederzani ordered negotiations to begin no later than 7:30 p.m. today and asked Earhart to report back to him by 9:30 a.m. Monday.
He postponed action until Monday at the earliest on the motion by school committee attorney Vincent J. Piccirilli for a contempt citation, which could result in jail or fines for the teachers.
″It might be moot, I hope,″ Pederzani said.
The five-member School Committee voted Thursday to authorize its attorney to seek the contempt citation.
The action came after teachers resumed the 3-week-old strike they interrupted for one day to honor the back-to-work order.
″We’ve tried to be reasonable. We’ve tried long and hard to avoid legal action,″ said committee Chairman Robert J. Healey Jr.
The two sides met for four hours after the committee meeting but did not reach a settlement.
The teachers returned to classes at the town’s five schools on Wednesday, but resumed picketing Thursday because they felt they had lost bargaining power, said Andrew Duperron, president of the National Education Association of Warren.
After teachers resumed picketing, some of Warren’s 1,400 students set up their own pickets in front of Town Hall, demanding an end to the strike that will keep them in school until at least July 7.
In a related matter, one of Gov. Edward D. DiPrete’s lawyers planned to petition Pederzani today to appoint a mediator in the talks.
The union’s last offer was for 16 percent increases over three years, giving teachers at top scale $28,403 this year, $30,108 next year and $31,914 the last year.
The committee’s last offer called for an increase in the current top scale of $27,314 to $27,923 this year, $29,598 next and $31,225 the third year.