The Board of Selectmen is disappointed that negotiations between the School Committee and the WEA (teachers’ union) have broken down. The Board remains supportive of the School Committee’s resolve to protect jobs and to preserve educational programming.
The Board is disheartened by the WEA’s apparent unwillingness to appreciate these difficult fiscal times. The WEA continues to demand two years of step increases for teachers. It has rejected multiple counterproposals offered by the School Committee.
And, it is their refusal to move off this demand that has led to the current impasse.
Simply put, the WEA’s uncompromising demand that teachers receive two years of step increases is not possible given the Town’s current financial resources without significantly impacting programs and services.
The WEA’s demand also goes well beyond agreements reached with other Town unions.
The Town has settled five union contracts. Each of these unions, recognizing the
difficult fiscal times the Town is operating in, agreed to no cost of living increase for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and no step increases in fiscal year 2012.
In a show of good faith to those unions who agreed to forego step increases this year, the Town agreed to a re-opener provision that may be triggered if the Town negotiates base wage increases for fiscal years 2012 or 2013 with any other Town union.
If the Town had to fund such increases, it would have to lay off employees, cut services and eliminate programs.
The Board also must correct recent misrepresentations made by the President of the WEA. Contrary to her statement that the teachers have accepted “major concessions” in health care benefits, the recent switch by the Town from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Tufts Health Care has resulted in employee savings of $275 to $925 in premiums depending upon the particular health insurance program an employee chooses while maintaining current benefit levels. Retirees save $1500 in their premiums and a wider scope of benefits is available to them. Notably, the co-pay for office visits has stayed at $5.00!
The WEA has stated that it remains open to mediation. The Board hopes that after a cooling off period, negotiations can resume. We value our teachers and their dedication and commitment to Westford’s students. We recognize the time and effort they put in to educating our children. We hope that a fair contract can be reached within the bounds of the Town’s fiscal resources.
Chair, Board of Selectmen