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