letters to the editor
To the Editor:
Since February of 2007 the Westborough School Committee has bee been meeting with the Westboro Westborough Teachers Association sociation ( WTA) to negotiate a new con contract. Last October, after eigh eight months of negotiations, tiations, a t tentative agreement was reached. This agreement was subsequently rejected by the WTA rank-and-file by a vote of 162 to 155 in October. The terms of that agreement were fair and competitive with those settlements that have been reached by other school districts in the region and throughout the state. The average annual salary increase (including the base salary increase plus steps and lanes) over the three-year period of the contract would have been 5.3%, which is higher than the cost of living inflation index of approximately 3%. The teachers' employee contribution for the Fallon Plan would have
As the October Town Meeting approached, the town was prepared to fund the school budget (with the teachers contract settlement included) along with the budgets of all other town departments. However, the WTA rank-andfile rejected the agreement. Because the WTA refused to meet during the summer months as requested by the School Committee, there was no time left to negotiate a new settlement in time for the October Town Meeting. Since October, the town's projected financial condition has dramatically changed due to the economic slowdown.
After the rejection of the contract in October, the WTA appointed a new negotiating team. After only two negotiating sessions, the WTA began picketing activities and recently declared work-to-rule for all teachers. The new WTA team has made multiple proposals to the School Committee that are far more expensive than the tentative agreement that was rejected in October. In fact, their latest proposal would cost the town more than an additional $2 million over and above the School Committee's proposal.
On Tuesday April 8, both sides agreed that negotiations are at an impasse. The School Committee has requested a non-binding fact finding process administered by the Massachusetts Board of Conciliation and Arbitration. This process may ultimately resolve the impasse, but will take at least 60 to 120 days. We will not have a settlement in time for the May Town Meeting. Therefore, the budget number for schools that will be presented at May Town Meeting will not include any funds for proposed teacher pay raises except for the step and lane increases, which we are legally obligated to pay with or without a settlement.
Clearly, the town can no longer aff ord the off er that the teachers declined in October, and the School Committee will not even contemplate the most recent proposals made by the new WTA negotiating team, which are even more costly.
The Westborough School Committee deeply appreciates the excellent work of Westborough's teachers. It has demonstrated this support by creating favorable work conditions, including low class sizes, that are among the best in central Massachusetts. It has also demonstrated this support by its most recent fair and competitive contract proposal. Over the years, the residents and taxpayers of Westborough have provided generous and consistent support for the Westborough schools and our teachers. However, the Westborough School Committee does not support a Proposition 2 ½ override, as it recognizes the need to keep Westborough's schools aff ordable to all residents. Therefore, it will continue to seek a fair and aff ordable settlement with the WTA. Westborough School Committee
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