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Are sick days a “perk” or deferred compensation? UPDATED with CTU response.

February 3, 2012

In order to build public opposition to public employee pensions, politicians both Republicans and Democrats, are waging a war of words and redefinitions.

This morning’s Chicago Sun-Times is running a headline about accumulated unused sick days.

They claim it is an unearned perk.

For teachers in Chicago and around the state, the ability to accumulate unused sick days amounts to deferred compensation as part of their collectively bargained agreements.

Since most teachers are paid well below those in the private sector with comparable training, education, experience and degrees, part of our compensation package includes the ability to apply accumulated unused sick days as credit towards our future pensions or paid out upon retirement.

The Sun-Times article focuses on administrators and non-certified CPS employees.

But make no mistake. This is part of the public relations campaign to destroy teacher pensions in the City and in Illinois.

UPDATE: The CTU responds to the Better Government Report on CPS pensions:

02/03/2012

The Better Government Association (BGA) report on unused sick day pay offs unfairly characterizes teachers and paraprofessionals as abusing the system.   It is not an abuse.  Teachers are given only 10 sick days per year.  They are not paid for maternity leave and therefore must either accumulate unused sick days or schedule their births during the summer.  Our members only become eligible for this benefit if they work 20 or more years or reach age 65; and, most of them do not get the huge payouts that the top Board officials have received.

It should also be noted that teachers and paraprofessionals who get this ‘deferred compensation,’ are the ones who do all they can to never miss a day of work.  These are the same professionals who come early, stay late and are now being asked to work even longer hours, while their benefits and pensions are under attack.

This policy has existed since 1968.  In the 1980s sick day accumulation was used by the Board of Education as a way of deferring compensation, and was eventually given to teachers and other professional staff in lieu of raises.   

The BGA report puts teachers in a Catch 22—if they use too many sick days they are given low ratings for bad attendance and if they accumulate too many they are falsely characterized as ‘greedy’ and ‘abusing the system.’  You can’t have it both ways.   The Chicago Teachers Union would be very hesitant to change the current system unless there’s some other way to ensure that people who work in our schools can receive paid maternity leave or those who need a surgery can take care of their health without worrying how they will pay their bills.

 

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 10:38 am

    I think something basic is missing in this whole discussion about teachers. Teachers are human beings with jobs and families to support, not angels of mercy who are supposed to give of themselves for nothing, never get sick, or have a personal or family crisis. Teachers shoud NOT have to defend themselves on such a basic concept.

    There is nothing wrong with offering sick and personal days as part of a package because: a) it’s an incentive to hire people and b) cuts down on the number of teacher absences by offering something in return. Some companies give big bonuses and a company car and other “perks,” so what is the beef here about sick days? IF the public is so concerned about “the children,” then they ought to also have concern for those without whom the children would have nobody. Try a week without teachers, OR take a look around your neighborhood and ask yourself if either you or your neighbor is really qualified to homeschool.

  2. February 3, 2012 10:44 am

    In Philly we are paid one quarter of our sick days and 100% of personal days, and nobody is going broke on this aspect. As with many things, if the costs of health care would come down, that’s where districts could save money. You cannot look to scapegoat teachers or their unions when there is something beyond them that’s at issue,

  3. February 3, 2012 11:09 am

    I’ve bargained many a contract, Fred. What management wants, every time, is to keep pay low, and yet have “committed” workers. A logical answer is to DEFER something, to give employees an incentive to both tolerate their lower salaries (than comparable occupations), and to want to go to work, even if they don’t feel 100%. As employees we want fairness. If they don’t want to pay what they agreed to in the contract, they damned well better pay us N OW. I share your worry that current leaders, state and national, don’t seem any more to understand the basics of bargaining, and understand much better the basics of surrender. I’d rather approach management and politicans with a united membership than with a freshly pressed white flag.

  4. bob permalink
    February 3, 2012 5:54 pm

    Lists

    Tomorrow I think I will dig out all my pay-stubs ,41 years of pay-stubs to be precise.
    I want to know how much money I would have made if I used all my sick leave.
    I retired with 310 sick days, but I actually accumulated 540 over my tenure.
    During the last 15 years I took 6 days off, and since I hit 315 in 2001 nobody
    Thanked me for returning those 130 days unused. Most of my friends called me
    A fool for letting the Board get over on me like that but I have something
    called old school work ethic.
    Pain didn’t stop me from work and I am proud to announce I never missed a
    Day due to weather . Twice I was already at school before 6 am when it was called
    Off for the day. To me sick days were a disability policy in case I got hurt or sick.
    It was one less thing to worry about. I honestly was surprised I even lived long
    enough to cash out.
    I am proud to be on the list especially since the board forgot to send me
    a thank you for 10 years of service, misplaced my certificate for 20 years
    left me off the 30 year list and ignored me after 40 years. Strange they
    seem to remember me now.

    • February 3, 2012 11:06 pm

      I retired last year. We could accumulate sick days, according to our contract. Unlimited. So when I retired I had accumulated 415 sick days. That’s 415 times I could have stayed home over the years. I didn’t. I went to school and gave it my all.

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