Woburn

Deal Reached in Woburn to End Teacher Strike, Schools Will Be Open Monday

Teachers in Woburn, Massachusetts, were on strike all last week, keeping schools closed for five days

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Teachers and city officials have reached a deal in Woburn, Massachusetts, ending a highly contentious week-long strike that kept schools closed for five days.

Mayor Scott Galvin announced that the Woburn Teachers Association (WTA) and city officials had agreed on a new successor contract for teachers, paraprofessionals and nurses as of 5:30 p.m. Sunday. They've also agreed on a back-to-work agreement.

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"The agreement provides educators with a fair contract that also aligns with the best interests of the district and residents of Woburn," the mayor and school committee said in a joint statement Sunday night. "Most importantly Woburn Public Schools will be able to resume providing a high-quality education to our 4,200 students."

City officials thanked Woburn families for their patience and understanding, noting the negotiations had been "lengthy and time-consuming."

Woburn Public Schools will reopen for all students on Monday, Feb. 6.

NBC10 Boston's Kirsten Glavin reports Woburn teachers agreed on a 4-year deal, with a 13.75% salary increase, and an extra 10 minutes added to their workday.

The mayor previously said that the city was offering a one-year deal with a 3.25% raise, followed by a three-year deal with a nearly 11% raise over those years. Teachers had said that was not enough.

The mayor was quick to note Sunday night how similar he felt the previous and final offers were.

"Good deal, unfortunately it was pretty similar, it was very similar to what we offered back in January before this started, so a lot for not," Galvin said. "As we said, the strike was illegal, it should have never happened. But we're happy with the deal we worked out."

Still, the mayor said they're "very happy" with the deal, while the president of the teachers association told NBC10 Boston that they consider this a win.

"We claim victory for a fair contract, and we claim victory for a unified community,” Barbara Locke said.

The union announced on Twitter that a tentative agreement had been reached with the mayor and the Woburn School Committee, writing, "We are excited to return to the classroom tomorrow with our students!"

"The WTA is proud to announce a contract that significantly increases the pay for our essential Education Support Professionals," Locke said in a statement. "We are also pleased to announce a contract for our teachers that creates a more competitive wage and slightly lowers class sizes for grades 4 and 5. However, more work remains to be done."

Locke added that talks had been been stalled late Friday night after the mayor insisted on "punitive fees" related to return-to-work language. All-day negotiations on Sunday allowed both sides to agree on a return-to-work agreement, she said.

The mayor says teachers will have to pay the city $225,000 for damages over the next four years. They will also have to pay $20,000 to a local charity. Galvin said that would cover the cost of police details and administrative costs associated with the strike.

“There were expenses that we incurred due to the strike and it was my duty and committee’s duty to recoup those for the taxpayers,” Galvin said.

Educators are also facing court fees for striking, which they've agreed to pay. A judge this past week ordered them to pay $40,000, plus a $5,000 per day escalation fee.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) has stepped in and pledged to help with costs. On Friday, a judge ordered the state's largest teachers union to stop encouraging or condoning the strike in Woburn, granting an injunction against the MTA.

“There’s a whole network of the MTA unions and locals that are gonna support Woburn all the way through,” Max Page, president of the MTA, said.

The mayor blasted the state's teachers union for supporting recent illegal strikes in several districts.

“I clearly do think it’s the MTA, I know it’s the MTA, and they particularly target mayors and try to intimidate them and bully them,” Galvin alleged.

But Page fired back at Woburn's mayor, saying, "This is a very, very small, small petty individual who sits in that city hall, facing incredibly righteous, idealistic public servants here, and the public servants won.”

We take a look at what's behind the growing trend of teacher strikes in Massachusetts.

The strike began on Monday, after contract talks stalled over the weekend. More than 500 educators were protesting outside the city's schools, as the district's student body of 4,000 plus stayed home. The sticking points in the negotiations included pay for teachers and paraprofessionals, along with class size.

The WTA negotiation team said in a statement they are especially proud of the students who so eloquently and passionately spoke up from them.

"They continually reminded the dedicated educators of Woburn what this contract fight was all about," the statement continued. "The encouragement we heard from parents and other community members kept us strong and affirmed that we were doing the right thing. Their respect for us -- and their willingness to entrust their children's future with us -- makes us proud to teach in this city."

The union's negotiators said they are also deeply appreciative of the support they received from Woburn parents and businesses who donated food to teachers on the picket lines across the district.

"The members of the WTA are grateful to be able to return to our classes and be with our students on Monday," the statement concluded.

A ratification vote was expected Sunday night, and as of 9 p.m., NBC10 Boston was told the contracts had officially been signed. More information on the specifics of the contract are expected sometime tomorrow.

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