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Catholic high schools may close during picket
[April 15, 2008]

Catholic high schools may close during picket

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 15--A number of Catholic high schools in New York City and Westchester may be forced to close today after about 300 teachers vowed to picket over a contract dispute, a teacher's union spokesman said yesterday.

The Lay Faculty Association said the strike is expected to last from today through the U.S. visit of Pope Benedict XVI, which begins Friday and ends Sunday, union spokesman Henry Kielkucki said.

The union, which represents 450 teachers in 10 schools in the city and in Westchester County, said a mediator made a counteroffer yesterday to the New York archdiocese that included a three-year contract.

The archdiocese's four-year offer, which was rejected, called for members to pay 10 percent of health benefits in the final year of the contract. Members "don't want to pay" it, Kielkucki said.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling didn't return calls yesterday.

No Catholic schools on Long Island would be affected.

The larger of the two teachers' unions, the Federation of Catholic Teachers agreed Friday to a four-year contract.

Federation spokeswoman Mary-Ann Perry said the settlement is not what teachers had sought, but called it "decent."

Kielkucki said the federation folded under archdiocese pressure and undermined the Lay Faculty Association, taking away any leverage.

"When they settle, it forces us to take the same settlement," he said.

Perry choose not to respond to Kielkucki's comments, saying only, "I am supportive of them," referring to the smaller union.

Teacher salary comparison

Most recent available estimated annual salaries for New York public and Catholic high school teachers:

Catholic teachers. $45,000

New York City public teachers. $52,947

New York teachers statewide. $55,665

Sources: New York State Department of Education 2004-2005 and Federation of Catholic Teachers

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