Arbitrator orders city to pay teachers back wages

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LONDON – MAY 21: A classroom at Edenham High School lies empty after lunchtime May 21, 2003 in Croydon, England. The school had to send home about 700 of it’s pupils early because of funding problems, which meant the school could not afford to employ temporary teaching staff while teachers were off sick. (Photo by […]

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City must pay half of the $900 million it owes in back pay to city teachers by the end of the month and the rest next year, an arbitrator has ruled.

The wages are owed as part of an agreement reached with the city to defer pay increases that were due to teachers in 2009 and 2010.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, his administration agreed to make those payments in a series of lump sums over six years.

The final $900 million, had been scheduled for October of this year. But the city said Thursday it could not make that payment because of the city’s fiscal crisis stemming in large part from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The arbitrator late Friday agreed with United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew, who said the terms of the agreement were binding.

Under the arbitrator’s decision, half of the total amount will be paid to an estimated 90,000 active and retired UFT members before the end of October. The balance will be paid in July 2021.

“This is far from a perfect solution for thousands of our members who are still owed deferred wages that can go back as far as 10 years,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “The decision recognizes the city’s difficult financial circumstances because of the coronavirus pandemic, but makes it clear that the city must find a way to meet its financial obligations to its educators.”

The mayor called the ruling a win for the city that will save it $450 million. But he also said that New York still needs $5 billion in federal or state aid to avoid a crisis in the upcoming fiscal year.

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