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Too big to bargain?
Public sentiment strongly favors union negotiations to be held in the open, with the terms disclosed to the public. During campaign season, candidates ensure the voters that they will push for more transparency. Yet, nothing happens.
Things are starting to happen around Lowell. Now is the time for the Lowell School Committee to force the issue.
DRACUT — Contract talks between the Dracut Teachers Association and School Committee were derailed last week when the School Committee asked to hold future bargaining sessions with the DTA in public, according to representatives from both sides.
At a scheduled bargaining session between the teachers union and School Committee held Tuesday at the central school offices on Lakeview Avenue, the School Committee’s attorney, Ed Morris, made a request “to enter conversation with the DTA to ask to have the negotiations go public,” said Dracut Teachers Association President Linda Dugan.
I’m going to give Dracut an “A” for sentiment, but a “D” for tactics. This attempt is flawed, as the School Committee has already begun negotiations. The “ground rules” are already established.
Westford School Committee tried it another way:
The School Committee has repeatedly been asked to supply the public with details of our negotiations with the teachers union. During the course of formal negotiations the sharing of negotiation details with the public about the offers was prohibited. After formal negotiations ended, the committee accepted the advice of the state mediator from the Division of Labor Relations, not to disclose the details of the offers over the course of the mediation with the Westford Education Association as the best process to reach an agreement. On Feb. 28, 2012, an agreement on the terms of a successor contract was reached with the negotiating team authorized to represent the teachers. This agreement was rejected by the teachers union members at a ratification vote on March 16, 2012. Therefore, in an effort to inform, we have put together the following explanation of the agreement reached on Feb. 28, including requests made by the teachers’ negotiating team that were not agreed to.
I like Westford’s approach better. This School Committee leveled the awareness of the public. Considering that the rank and file of the Westford teachers union knew the details, why should the general public not?
Ultimately, these matters need to be worked out when the negotiation ground rules are set. Transparency must be ensured before the negotiating parties begin to bargain.
If the Unions refuse ….. ? Well, they just got 3% and the sunset provision allows them to ride that for a good long time. At some point, they’ll come back. We have to give the School Committee the fortitude to be firm on this point.
This won’t be easy, folks. As voter turnout dwindles, union votes will be coveted by shallow candidates.
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