'More Than Zero!' Waterbury Teachers Protest Pay Freeze - NBC Connecticut

'More Than Zero!' Waterbury Teachers Protest Pay Freeze

The mayor said it is hard to give the teachers a raise because the city depends on state funding and it could change with a new governor

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    'More Than Zero!' Waterbury Teachers Protest Pay Freeze

    The mayor said it is hard to give the teachers a raise because the city depends on state funding and it could change with a new governor.

    (Published Thursday, March 7, 2019)

    More than zero!

    That was the message from Waterbury teachers to school leaders on Thursday. They’re facing a pay freeze for next year.

    "It’s kind of like a slap in the face, plain and simple," said Ali Kirchberger, a fifth-grade teacher.

    They packed the gym at Bucks Hill Elementary School.

    As the school board met, they supported their union, the Waterbury Teachers Association.

    "They just want to understand why? Why the zero?" said Kevin Egan, president of the Waterbury Teachers Association.

    Egan blasted the city for the zero raise which came after binding arbitration. But when it came time for the city to respond, most teachers walked out.

    There was clear frustration on the part of Mayor Neil O’Leary.

    "I’m a little disappointed," said O’Leary.

    O’Leary went on to explain to those left in the room that it was hard to give the teachers a raise because the city depends on state funding and it could change with a new governor.

    The mayor pointed out teachers have seen a boost in pay during his tenure and that should resume for the second and third year of their contract.

    "There will be no question we’ll be providing raises. What’s going to matter the most is what the legislative budget looks like," said O’Leary.

    Also O’Leary says there’s been a pay freeze for many city workers during these tough financial times.

    Still there are worries that some teachers might leave.

    "We have had a lot of turnover because Waterbury doesn’t pay like the rest of the districts do," said Kathleen O’Brien, a high school math teacher.

    The mayor hopes to have a better idea in June of how much money the city will receive from the state.

    That’s also when negotiations will resume with the teachers union about the next two years.

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