Q: Can a school district/municipal government freeze salaries and benefits under the current contract for all employees at their present levels?
A: A school district/municipal government cannot unilaterally freeze salaries and benefits at the present levels. Unlike the private sector, local governments must operate under the Taylor Law which applies to employee groups, such as teachers’ unions.
A school district/municipal government can only change the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with the consent of the other party. This means that the terms of the agreement need to be renegotiated by both parties (i.e. the school district and the teachers’ union) in order to freeze salaries and benefits.
In order to accomplish a freeze, the union would need to agree to no salary and benefit increases, rather than receive the previously negotiated increases under the terms of the current agreement. Those instances where a union agrees to a freeze are rare but do occur from time to time. Still the vast majority of unions have not been willing to renegotiate new terms which would be less economically beneficial to their members than the current agreement. The unwillingness to renegotiate in light of the current economic climate in New York State often results in lay-offs and/or reductions in services and programs.