The Westford Education Association returned to the negotiating table with the Westford School Committee on Wednesday night, shortly after a rally letting assembled teachers know that there may be an escalation of Work-to-Rule activities later this year.
WEA leaders joined with allies and spokespeople from Westford and beyond to let assembled teachers know that while negotiations for a new contract came very close to an amicable conclusion a week earlier, action may be needed to ensure that the union receives what it considers to be a fair deal.
Nine-time Concord-Carlisle Teachers’ Association president Andrei Joseph shared experiences with the crowd from a similar situation his union faced several years ago.
“Anxious members came to me, as I was the president, and asked ‘how will this be resolved?’,” said Joseph. “My response was, ‘you will get the contract you are willing to fight for.’”
Following the speeches from Joseph, WEA Action Team co-chairs Jeff Haight and Kyle McDonald, and Massachusetts Teachers’ Association president Paul Toner, who spoke on the importance of schools to the overall economic health of a town.
“I know that things are tough, but this town has gotten a lot from its teachers and its public schools, and the value of (Westford’s) homes are based on the value of education,” said Toner.
WEA vice president and spokesperson Mary McCusker concluded the presentation by telling crowd that the current level of work-to-rule actions would escalate in the fall if a contract was not reached, and that “all bets would be off” in regards to what the action could possibly entail.
“I really think it will it will be a different ballgame in September,” said McCusker.
McCusker told the crowd that the union’s negotiating team had reached an agreement with the School Committee on a three year step system where the first year would be dropped in exchange to a return to steps in a second year and a “make-up” step coupled with a normal step in a third year.
However, there were still concerns over time commitments such as mandatory faculty meeting days and the amount of work days per year.
In the end, McCusker went back to the example set by Joseph where other nearby towns had found the money for contracts acceptable to local teachers’ unions.
“Other towns like Groton and Acton, towns around us, can find the money,” said McCusker. “So how can they do it and Westford not, what needs to be looked at?”
The event also provided an introduction for recently elected WEA president Jason Humphrey and new co-treasurers Colleen Tessier and Carrie Dumas, who all officially enter their roles on July 1, but will take part in negotiations immediately.
CORRECTION: 6/7/12, 8:18 p.m. - "Work-to-Rule", not "Right-to-Rule".