LETTER: BOS Chair Disappointed with WEA's Position

The following is a letter to the editor. To send your own letter to the editor, e-mail us at westford@patch.com

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.

Andrea Peraner-Sweet
Chair, Board of Selectmen

Tom Darrien February 06, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I think the BOS ought to worry about the gridlock traffic that will plague Westford now that another business is opening (cornerstone) DESTROYING the character of this town when I moved here 15 years ago and let the school Committee deal with negotiations with the teachers. This reads to me like heavy handed tactics on the part of the BOS to pressure the teachers which as a resident in town a little unsure of where I stand on the negotiations worries me as I have heard some unsettling this about the BOS/Town Manager Ross/ and the SC chair. This article makes me think there is some validity to some of these 'rumors'
Patrick Tut February 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
How come even in 'these difficult financial times' Westford is the ONLY town in the area so hardup it cant even honor the steps let alone a small % increase? Last I checked the recession didnt hit Westford extra hard (the opposite actually) Therefore, I believe someone is not being truthful about town finances OR $$$$$ has been mismanaged here and some questions should be asked of those who have made these decisions for the past 5 years.
Dave L February 07, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Westford's premiums are much higher than in the private sector (at least in my case). Look at the family plan premiums compared to what the private sector offers and I believe you will see quite a difference. So the low co-pays do not tell the entire story.
Vincent DiRico February 07, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Dave, are you sure you know what is going on in the private sector? I work for the big blue company very close to Westford. When I had my children 9 years ago I used an HMO and loved it. Now the cost of an HMO is so high that I use a PPO. Back when the rates started to skyrocket (~ 7 years ago) the family rates were done away with, now you pay for yourself, your spouse and each child (no one gets a free ride).
Lisa Sama February 07, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Does the BOS have any idea why Westford is such a hot town? It's the schools! Have they seen our MCAS scores? Westford realtors are using them as major selling points. Our children didn't educated themselves.
Lisa Sama February 07, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Great comment.
Kathleen Spaeth February 07, 2012 at 03:20 PM
You cannot get blood from a stone! Nor can you get your WEA Step Increases without incurring layoffs and cuts to the Schools!! When will you collectively realize that what is good for you (personally) isn't necessarily good for the School System nor the Town (as a whole)? Why I can't "even consider to ratifying a contract w/out my steps both years" speaks only of yourself! These are the financial paycheck dilemna's that most of use face each year in the "dreaded Private Sector", during our yearly reviews, and many of us have had to forgo our COLA's and Step Increases (and even had our salaries frozen indefinitely), in order to be able to keep our jobs. It is not right nor fair, but it is necessary, because having a job that pays something is better than being layed off and unemployed (without a salary at all)! I have to wonder if during the past few years of economic downturn, or "slowdown" as some have kindly called it here in Westford, if the town has ignored their long-term financial obligations and given COLA's and Step-Increases without working out all the financial consequences? Finally, they are realizing that there isn't any money left to continue these practices, and they are now acting fiscally responsible, and the WEA doesn't like this and doesn't agree. I am glad that the BOS and the School Committee have realized the gravity of the situation and are doing something about it. Stand firm and us taxpayer's stand with you! Bravo!!
Molly February 07, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Couldn't agree more Kathleen. Well said. On another note even if there was this big pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow that the town misled about, who said it should just go to the teachers anyways!!!! Maybe put a little back in the parents pockets who are struggling to pay all the FEES in this town!!!!!
June Mary February 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Tom Darrien please state the rumors so they their veracity can be verified. Heavy handed tactics. Why don't you talk to a member of the WGBH union about the correctness of the following article. WGBH imposes rejected contract By Johnny Diaz Globe Staff March 16, 2011 As far as I am concerned town officials have been bending over backwards to try to solve a difficult local economic situation. While the economy was crashing the state was balancing their budget by decreasing local aid. POTUS Obama was kind and provided over $11 million for 2010 and 2011 which prevented major layoffs. In 2012 there is little remaining of POTUS Obama's generosity, the US is another $4.5+ trllion in debt, social security payments were frozen for two years while Medicare premiums increased, the federal Civil Service has had their pay frozen for two years and significant lay offs, even the US Post Office has laid off over 100,000 over the last 3 years, etc... Is gridlock traffic, a threat that you are making on behalf of the WEA? You may be flabbergasted at the actions of the taxpayers coming home and faced by a WEA traffic gridlock.
June Mary February 07, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Molly back in 2007, after the 2006 Prop 2 1/2 override failed,, the parents of Westford schools were taken to the cleaners with charges to fund bus transportation. The revolving funds outside Town Meeting control, that have sprouted or had fees exponentially increase since 2006 , take thousand of dollars from the parents of school children. Even the WA seniors who drive to school have to pay for their parking spaces. I vividly remember not too long ago that revolving funds did not exist and all Westford school children were provided FREE bus transportation. I agree that a few crumbs of bread should be given to the over taxed taxpayers of Westford.
June Mary February 07, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Your other alternative is to seek employment in the highly compensated private sector or the grossly highly compensated school systems of Lowell, Lawrence, Worcester, etc. I heard that Reading pays $10,000 more than Westford. Try walking a mile in the shoes of a private sector employee. I believe your attitude would come around. One anecdote, two years ago a female member of our dog training group, arrived at practice in tears. Her husband was laid off after 15 years with the company and superior performance reviews and she and other members of her group were told "Take a voluntary 10% pay cut or clean out your desk. The company just had several major contracts canceled or scaled back because of overseas competition. Have a Happy New Year."
Bill McGirk February 07, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Andrew, I would like to know why 'MLuther' is free to call people on this board douchebags, and as about 'pig'? its over the line and childish and immature that he repetitively cant make his point w/out name calling
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Hi Bill, he isn't. I apologize, I didn't see the comments until now, they crossed over the lines of the terms of service and will be deleted immediately. MLuther, no more name calling. Same goes for everyone else here. I know this is a difficult topic, but please discuss the topic itself and not other users. Thank you.
MAHM3 February 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Excellent point Patrick! Things do need to be looked into for sure!
MAHM3 February 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I would like to make a correction to the BOS as far as insurance goes... The only people who had any savings with the health insurance was the retirees. I certainly don't have any more money in my check since the switch of insurances!
Patch Adams February 08, 2012 at 10:29 PM
This TEACHER is Disappointed with the BOS position. So there!!! Your town is heading quickly downhill on your watch, why dont you permit another Market Basket so we have one over on route 40 and really class up the joint.
AB February 10, 2012 at 03:09 AM
DaveL, since you are so certain of the cost differential, how much is the family plan contribution for teachers under the current contract?
Rich F February 10, 2012 at 04:23 AM
For the family PPO the employee contribution is $760.85/month and the HMO $554.77/month. FYI, this isn't just for the teachers....its for ALL town employees.
Mluther February 10, 2012 at 09:26 AM
If the town could get away with paying Teachers next to nothing we should because the reality is they are going to do the job anyway and we all know it. This is why we have been able to 'squeeze' teachers in the past in Westford. Its a privilege to teach here and thats worth many thousands of dollars! We can increase the workload and they will stay up late at night to do the work....lets save the money for services that wouldnt get done otherwise (like trash collection) Its funny how the town still says it 'values' teachers, isnt it obvious that if that were the true they would be treating teachers like this. Hehe. I love getting a good bang for my buck in Westford!
Mluther February 10, 2012 at 10:39 AM
We have always been fiscally conservative (some call this 'cheap') here in Westford. If we can get away with paying 50 cents on the dollar we do. Whats wrong with that? If we can increase services in the schools by not paying 'steps' to the teachers then this is GOOD for the town, B.Olsen works for the TOWN and not the teachers so this is whose interests he is looking out for! I have never been more proud of Westford leadership! Now if we can reduce-eliminate some of the 'celebrate diviersity' curriculms in the schools we will really make some progress in returning the country to good moral American values!
Rich F February 10, 2012 at 01:30 PM
"diviersity" and "curriculms"? You're quite the speller Mluther.
Julie C. February 10, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Rich - I can't help but notice that you enjoy correcting the spelling and grammatical errors people make in their writing. If you want to be entertained, check out the Westford Academy Ghostwriter website. I have no doubt you can do better than the teachers and students who edit the articles.
Rich F February 10, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Julie - I don't claim to be the smartest guy in the room...but, the Patch website underlines incorrectly spelled words in red. They should be easy enough to spot and correct. I think it's humorous that folks like Mluther post on here breathing fire yet can't be bothered to make sure the words are spelled correctly. It's hard for me to take posts like that seriously. So yes, I do get a few chuckles from correcting the spelling of posters.
Julie C. February 10, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I appreciate correct spelling and grammar too. And I'm serious about the Westford Academy Ghostwriter website. Everyone should take a look at the writing skills of Westford's students, even if it is representative of just a few of them.
Rich F February 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I'll definitely take a look. Thanks.
Tony Martinez February 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
We should keep our proud tradition of stretching the buck further than its gone before. lets face it we are cheap here and like to get Groton quality public services for Ayer like funding. As a tax payer I think it would be great and if we have teachers are scrubbing the school floors and if we have the trash collectors teaching school so be it. Time to feel the Tea Party Power here in westford! Lets pull a Gov Scott Walker on these liberal unions and on Obamadom of the country and take it back for real americans
Sam February 11, 2012 at 01:52 AM
AB February 11, 2012 at 02:17 AM
$760 is about average, although with *much* higher OV/ER and RX co-pays. Me + 3 kids is more, not counting dental (bluecrossma.com). Still not feeling very sorry for their lot in life based on all that.
Alex Finnegan June 07, 2012 at 03:27 AM
"I would like to make a correction to the BOS as far as insurance goes... The only people who had any savings with the health insurance was the retirees. I certainly don't have any more money in my check since the switch of insurances!" And don't forget the town. The two groups that did save money weren't mentioned. So misleading.... You're going to have your trash collectors get a master's degree and teach school and expect to continue to get trash collectors pay? You might want to think through your "recapture America plan" And who exactly are "real americans?"
Alex Finnegan June 07, 2012 at 05:00 AM
"I agree that a few crumbs of bread should be given to the over taxed taxpayers of Westford." Here are the property tax rates town by town for MA. Explain to me how you are overtaxed? https://dlsgateway.dor.state.ma.us/gateway/Public/WebForms/TaxRate/ReportTRApprovalPublic.aspx Your tax rates are within a quarter (+/- a penny) of Tyngsboro, Rutland, West Bridgewater, Athol, Dedham, Northborough, Hudson, Everett, Salem. You pay less % than Groton, Auburn, Littleton, Brockton, Ashland, Leomenster, Lunenburg, Worcester, Townsend, Framingham, Chelmsford, Fitchburg, Maynard, Acton, Springfield. You live in wealthy town with high property values, your tax rates are on par, you can't afford your house. "Maybe put a little back in the parents pockets who are struggling to pay all the FEES in this town!!!!!" I was unaware only parents paid the fees in town. Parents for lack of a better word "sponge" off the 50% of families w/out kids. We pay the same property tax rates, yet don't use the schools. We pay Family rate health insurance that goes into a pool to make insurance for the Parents affordable. Parents benefit the most from the system. If you were being fair, the money should be given back to the people w/out kids. But I think your reasoning is the parents need it the most & that's probably true. But last time I checked Teacher's were parents too, and tax payers, and married but childless, but it's ok to take the money from them? Not chump change either, Thousands?


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