Regrettably, the teachers and the School Committee were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract at our Mediation session last evening.
The teachers began the evening proposing a settlement that was, to our surprise, more costly than the last proposal they made two weeks ago. The School Committee responded with two possible settlements both of which were rejected by the teachers.
Finally, we were informed that the teachers could not and would not agree to a proposal that did not include a total of two years of step increases.
This is well beyond what we can afford and still maintain existing programs and staff. It is also well beyond what has been proposed to and accepted by other unions in town. The School Committee made our best and final offer which was rejected. It is our sincere belief that we cannot support a contract that can only be paid for by cutting services to students and laying off staff.
At this point we assume that the teachers' union will proceed on their Unfair Labor Practices claim against the School Committee. A fact finding session is scheduled in that proceeding for next Wednesday.
We will now have to wait and see whether this process will result in cuts to services and/or layoffs of staff. I would also like to correct statements recently made by the teachers that they have made "huge concessions" with regard to health insurance.
The recent change in health insurance negotiated by the Town Manager and agreed to by every Town union provides comparable or better coverage at a huge savings to both the Town and the employees.
Depending on what type of plan they select employees will save between $275 and $925 per year. We remain ready, willing and able to discuss any proposal that is in the best interests of the schoolchildren of Westford in the context of resources available.
Chairman, Westford School Committee