May 1, 2020 Communication from PAT- re PPS Discussions re Potential Furloughs and Work Share

Message sent to our membership on May 1st, 2020

Dear PAT Colleagues:

       As many of you may have heard, PPS has approached the PAT, other PPS unions, and non-represented employees about the possibility of furloughing employees by 20% for the last five weeks of school this year.  Their goal is to save general fund resources.  PPS’s desire to furlough workers now is because of the extraordinary increase in unemployment in Oregon, and the loss of business for so many small businesses.  Oregon knows that the amount of tax dollars coming into the state will be far less than was originally forecast, and the Governor has asked school districts to plan for significant reductions in funds next year.  The PPS idea to have a temporary furlough for all employees is its response to this funding crisis; PPS wants to save as much as it can for staffing next year.

       The PPS plan is that employees would work four days a week for the rest of the 2019/2020 school year, and have our members make no less than their regular salary.  This would be accomplished by using the Work Share program of Oregon and Federal Cares Act funding.  Work Share is a program that protects employee income in situations where an employer has to cut employee hours in order to avoid layoffs.  By utilizing the Work Share funds, PPS will achieve a temporary furlough, members will keep their pre-furlough health benefit levels, and with the funds from the Work Share program, professional educators would make as much (or more) than they did prior to the cuts.

       In all of our discussions with PPS, we have made it clear that we understand that with the financial crisis caused by the pandemic, we all need to be creative in finding solutions.  Our goal is to protect as many PAT members as possible from possible layoffs next year, and by doing so, also protect workload for as many remaining professional educators as we can. To that end, we are not against the PPS plan, but we have to have certain guarantees for all of the PAT represented professional educators. 

       First, we have demanded that no change would be made to salary/workweek schedule this year unless the PAT members were able to vote on the temporary change in the workweek/Work Share plan.  If PAT members reject the plan, no one’s workweek or salary would be changed.  PPS has agreed in writing to that requirement. 

       Secondly, we have been clear that PPS must agree to hold members harmless if something in the plan falls apart.  In other words, that if an individual has their workweek/salary reduced and they are rejected by Work Share for any reason, they would be made whole by PPS.  They would be returned to their previous work schedule and receive their lost wages. 

       PPS hasn’t yet agreed to that guarantee. 

       Until we know that our members and their family incomes are safe (as called for by the Governor’s Executive Order 20-20) we won’t bring the plan to you for a vote. 

       We want everyone to know that we support the PPS idea to save money in order to protect as much of next year’s staffing as possible, but we won’t gamble with our members’ current financial security.  We look forward to bringing you positive news in the very near future, because we hope to have the agreement finalized, a PAT member vote, and if approved by the membership, have the plan initiated by next week.  We believe this will accomplish all of our goals to save as much money as possible for next year’s staffing. 

In Solidarity,

Portland Association of Teachers