The Chicago Teachers Union is threatening to go on strike as early as April 1 if Chicago Public Schools follows through with canceling the 7 percent pension pickup it has long made, union officials said Monday.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey told NBC Chicago the union is “considering that possibility,” saying April 1 is the first time the teachers might have to pay the 7 percent pickup, according to their calculations. They argue CPS “can’t change the terms of employment” until there is a new contract.
CPS, however, said a strike is not legally possible until mid-May.
“To keep our school doors open, CPS exercised its right under the contract to eliminate the pension pickup and gave the required 30 day notice to the CTU on Feb. 2,” the district said in a statement. “Once we reach the 30 day mark, we will work administratively to determine the first paycheck that will not include the pension pickup.”
The announcement was made on the same day the district said it was laying off 62 employees, including 17 teachers.
Teachers have been working without a contract since June. For months the union has been threatening a walkout.
CPS argues the CTU alone cannot determine whether or not an action is an “unfair labor practice,” saying that decision must come from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool earlier this month revealed plans for hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts. A day after the bargaining team for the Chicago Teachers Union unanimously rejected a contract offer from the Chicago Board of Education, Claypool unveiled that CPS will cut $100 million from school budgets to help decrease its deficit. In that same announcement, he revealed major changes to CPS’ pension plan.
“We cannot afford to continue the current practice of paying both teacher and employer pension payments,” Claypool said.
He blamed a lack of state funding for the layoffs and budget cuts.
“The fact that these cuts needed to happen in the first place is unfortunate for our principals, teachers and – most of all – our students,” Claypool said in a statement after Monday’s layoffs announcement.