Warwick Teachers Union fighting layoffs

By Bianca Buono

bbuono@abc6.com

@BBuonoABC6

Dozens of teachers in Warwick are set to be laid off at the end of the school year, but the teachers union is not going down without a fight.

"It’s sad to know that a lot of these teachers are going to be out of jobs. They’re all really great people and it’s hard to find jobs out there these days,” said Denise Leonard, a parent in Warwick.

"It’s a little shocking. You know you’re just wondering if any of your friends that are teachers are being the ones laid off you know you want to know if there’s a list,” said Warwick parent Michelle Murphy.

According to George Landrie, the president of the Warwick Teachers Union, the layoffs were announced at a Tuesday night school committee meeting and the names of the 65 teachers were read out loud. He says that has never happened before.

"This is quite an eye opener for the city of Warwick and Warwick Public Schools,” said Warwick Teachers Union President George Landrie.

In a statement released to ABC6 on Wednesday, Superintendent Philip Thornton said in part:

"These layoffs are not a reflection of the quality of Warwick teachers or the contributions they have made throughout their employment. This is an unfortunate part of school consolidation.”

As part of the school committee’s consolidation plan, Aldrich and Gorton junior high schools are closing, but Landrie says regardless, the layoffs are in violation of the union contract.

He says per year, 40 teachers can receive notices of layoffs and only 20 can actually be laid off.

"You can lay off 20 this year, you can lay off 20 next year, you can lay off 20 the year after. There’s 60. You might have some resignations through attrition, some retirements. And you might actually get to a number more like 75 to 90 in the next three years. That’s the mechanism that both sides have agreed to,” said Landrie.

The contract expired last August, but Landrie says under Rhode Island law, the expired contract remains in effect until a new one is agreed upon. He says the next step is to take legal action.

"At the end of the day this is a violation. This is a clear, clear violation of a contract,” said Landrie.

ABC6 did reach out to the superintendent’s office Thursday to see what his thoughts are on the union protesting the layoffs. His secretary said he has no comment.

© WLNE-TV 2016