The Boston Teachers Union launched a public relations blitz Thursday in hopes of swaying residents to its side as tense contract negotiations over pay continue.
The outreach began in the morning with advertisements in more than a dozen newspapers, including the Globe, urging readers to “Tell the Boston Public Schools to Stop the War on Teachers!’’ Then union organizers handed out fliers to passersby at City Hall Plaza at lunchtime.
At issue is whether to pay teachers for working an extra 30 minutes per day, one of several unresolved proposals that have caused contract negotiations to continue for 21 months.
Union leaders are seeking an additional $2,500 a year to compensate teachers for their time and up to $1,000 a year to reimburse them for supplies they buy with their own money. But union officials say that Superintendent Carol R. Johnson does not want to pay them for the extra time.
“The idea is to get some movement and get the city to back off having us underwrite an extended day,’’ Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, said as he handed out the fliers.
Johnson argues that increases in the overall pay rates of teachers, which would occur in most contract years, should adequately compensate teachers for the extra minutes during these tough fiscal times.
Her pay-rate proposal would cost the city $32.6 million over four years, while the teachers union’s proposed salary schedule would cost more than $100 million, according to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a fiscal watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofit institutions.
Teachers in Boston make an average of $81,633, according to Matthew Wilder, a School Department spokesman.
“We think this is another example of the [union] leadership using a meaningless PR stunt instead of focusing on a contract that would bring real reforms for our students,’’ Wilder said.
The union injected humor into their public outreach campaign at City Hall. The fliers they handed out were actually fake press releases that had Mayor Thomas M. Menino declaring that all city workers, except teachers, had agreed to an extra half hour without pay, allowing City Hall to run until 6 p.m.
Overhead, a small plane periodically flew by carrying a banner that said “City Hall Open until 6.’’
Some city workers, who received the fliers as they left City Hall for lunch, were initially baffled by the flier, until they realized it was a spoof. Most appeared to empathize with the teachers, shaking their hands or nodding in agreement. Others declined to take the fliers.
“School teachers are committed,’’ said Joanne McKay, a part-time City Hall worker. “They really care about kids and how they will turn out in the future, and most teachers give more than an extra half hour a day.’’
The newspaper advertisements, which also appeared in a number of neighborhood and ethnic publications, took a more serious tone, portraying teachers as hard working.
“They spend at least two to three hours every day at home or at school correcting papers, planning lessons, and all the other things that go into teaching our children,’’ the ads stated.
Sam Tyler, president of the Municipal Research Bureau, found the timing of the advertising blitz odd.
“There’s been a new interest on the part of Richard Stutman and the teachers union to be more aggressive in having meetings and coming to a resolution and wrapping up this whole process by the end of March,’’ Tyler said.James Vaznis can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.