One reader asked us recently why Westford's teachers have not gotten step increases, a contractual raise found in most school districts based on tenure, since the teachers' contract expired earlier this year, even though other parts of the contract were still being observed.
We asked both sides on the issue this question, and here's what they said.
"The teachers' contract expired on August 31, 2011, and any wage increases, including "step" increases are subject to negotiation. Needless to say, raises can never be presumed, especially in these difficult economic times.
The teachers' negotiating team declined the School Committtee's offers to continue bargaining in July and August before the expiration date of the contract. The School Committee and Administration cannot legally discuss contract issues directly with the teachers, we can only have such discussions through the teachers' bargaining team or it's union representative. Therefore, it is up to the teachers' negotiating team to keep its members fully informed.
The School Committee negotiating team is doing everything possible to craft a contract that is fair to the teachers, beneficial to the students and mindful of the available resources.
We will continue to do our best to negotiate honestly and to move the process along as expeditiously as possible.
Presently, since Mediation was requested by the teachers negotiating team, we are bound by the Mediation schedule.
We will be meeting during four consecutive weeks starting on January 11, 2012 and we have high hopes that we will reach a negotiated settlement that everyone can live with during that time period."
-Angela Harkness, chairwoman, Westford School Committee
"The WEA (Westford Education Association) was disappointed when our members did not receive steps in the fall. What we believed to be past practice did not occur this year.
Generally until a new contract is established the remaining contract remains in place and staff and administration adhere to the language of the contract.
This means staff members comply to the language of the contract outlined and in the past they received the next step in the contract: cost of living increases would not occur unless a new contract was established and agreed to by both sides."
-Ruth Freeman, president, Westford Education Association