“FAIR CONTRACT NOW”: Wilmington Teachers Association Goes Public With Dissatisfaction Over Contract Negotiations

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Teachers Association has recently taken its demand for a new fair contract public after over a year of closed-door negotiations with the School Committee.

“With the previous contract between the WTA and the school committee, the town did the right thing in updating a woefully inadequate salary schedule for educators,” read a recent statement from the WTA. “But it would be a step backwards to not sustain the investment with reasonable and equitable wage adjustments now… Wilmington made a necessary down payment on the work of bringing its schools up to par, and now we must maintain the work of retaining skilled veteran educators, supporting mid-career educators and attracting talented young educators.”

Background

In December 2017, the School Committee and WTA reached a 3-year agreement — covering September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2021 — under which teachers received a 2.0% cost of living adjustment annually. Additionally, teachers received an annual “market rate adjustment” which worked out to an approximate 1% increase.

“The market rate adjustment resulted from an analysis and comparison of Wilmington’s salary schedule to 28 other surrounding School Districts,” explained then Interim Superintendent Paul Ruggerio. “The results showed that, on average, Wilmington’s salary schedule fell below comparable Districts and the parties wanted to narrow the gap.  The Town of Wilmington and the Wilmington Public Schools strive to pay our employees a fair wage somewhere in the middle of comparable towns/districts.”

“We worked extensively with the teachers to try make up the disparity between their pay scale with that of their peers, while keeping in mind the hardships of all the taxpayers of Wilmington,” added then School Committee Chair Steve Bjork.  “We certainly don’t want the Wilmington school system seen as the lowest paid system in the region. We want our district to excel. We want the best possible teachers we can secure and we appreciate the teachers we have on staff.”

WTA Puts Public Pressure On School Committee

The WTA and School Committee have been unable to reach a new deal, with teachers working under an expired contact since August 31, 2021.

In addition to recently releasing a statement to the local media, members of the Wilmington Teachers Association held a standout on the Town Common, in front of the High School, on Wednesday, February 2, 2022.

Members of the Teachers Association, and supportive community members, are also expected to attend the next School Committee Meeting on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 at 7pm inside the high school.

There is also a letter writing campaign, which appears to be sponsored by the WTA, on The Action Network, which reads:

“WTA Members are dedicated to the students and families of Wilmington. We work for the common good and serve the community day in and day out. However, despite more education funding from the state and federal stimulus monies topping $10,000,000, School Committee members are asking Wilmington educators to effectively take a pay cut.”

What’s The Hold Up?

Contract negotiations have taken place privately, so it is not publicly known what issue or set of issues is holding up a deal. One potential complication for both sides is that the Teachers Association isn’t the only union with expired or expiring contracts.

“The teachers’ contract expired on August 31, 2021. They do not have a contract this year. We’re still negotiating with them,” Assistant Superintendent Paul Ruggiero told the Wilmington Finance Committee in December. “The nurses’ contract also expired at the same time. We’re still negotiating with them. Both of those groups are working without a contract this year.”

“In addition, the Administrative Assistants’ contract and Educational Assistants’ contracts also expire on June 30, 2022,” added Ruggiero. “So, we essentially have four contracts we’re trying to negotiate this year.”

Another potential complication for negotiations is the fact that the Town Manager has asked the Superintendent to keep the school district’s overall budget increase from FY22 to FY23 to 2.5%. The 2.5% budget increase — $44.815 million to $45.935 million — does include a 2.68% increase in the salary line from $35.431 million to $36.382 million. Brand, however, initially proposed an overall budget increase of 3.09% — $44.815 million to $46.19 million — including a 3.43% increase in the salary line. Brand adjusted his budget proposal after meeting with Hull and his budget team in January.

According to the most recent data (2019-2020 Fiscal Year) from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, the average Wilmington teacher’s salary is $84,590. Of surrounding communities, the average Wilmington teacher makes less than Burlington ($100,041), Billerica ($92,504), and Andover ($91,896), and more than Woburn ($84,510), North Reading ($81,584), Reading ($81,265) and Tewksbury ($79,769).

Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s