The Hingham Education Association teachers union has decided on “a plan of escalating action,” following more than 18 months of inaction over teacher contracts.
Teachers are currently working under the previous three-year contract, which expired in August. Negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing since May 2009, yet so far, little progress has been made, union officials said.
At a general membership meeting on Monday afternoon, the union decided that if there is no progress at the Jan. 31 bargaining session between union and school officials, teachers on Feb. 1 will suspend various voluntary activities in each of the schools, union officials said.
If bargaining is unsuccessful on Feb. 17, teachers will conduct a series of public demonstrations of solidarity, starting on March 5.
“The plan is in direct reaction to the lack of movement by the School Committee toward a fair contract,” union officials stated in a summary of their Jan. 24 meeting. “The campaign that the members ratified today is tied directly to what happens at the bargaining table. Deadlines have been set for progress.”
“We are still unhappy with the way things have gone, having not settled on a contract, and we’ve been working without one since August,” said Ellen McNulty, president of the HEA.
According to McNulty, if no progress isn't made by April 11, further steps will be voted on by the union.
"It doesn’t mean we would have to have something settled by April 11, but for the third wave to not happen, negotiations will have to start going well," she said.
School officials are also frustrated that there has been so little progress, but acknowledge that in this difficult economic climate, negotiations take time.
“This process is a long one, but we will come to an agreement at some point,” said Hingham Superintendent Dorothy Galo. “It’s fair to say that we have a challenging economic climate and [negotiations take] somewhat longer than they would in another financial environment.”
Galo was unaware of any stipulations the union had made about contract deadlines, but said she hoped progress would be made at the bargaining meeting scheduled for next Monday.
Neither side would discuss provisions of the contract being discussed. Galo said there are no contractual or legal obligations regarding the timetable of these negotiations, but was hopeful that things will be resolved.
“We’re always hopeful that every time we have a meeting, that there will be some positive outcome,” she said. “We’re taking it one step at a time. We’re still meeting on a regular basis.”