May 4, 2017 – When the School Committee voted Tuesday night (5/2/17) to approve a new three-year contract with EGEA, the teachers union, it brought an end to several months of contentious bargaining.
In the contract – which is retroactive to Sept. 1, 2016, and goes through August 2019 – teachers get no raise for the first year, a 2 percent raise in year two and a 2.25 percent raise in year three. This is in addition to previously negotiated step increases.
The contract also eliminates the health insurance “buyback” provision in which a teacher who did not take the health insurance benefit was given $2,000 (for an individual plan) or $4,000 (for a family plan) a year in two payments. However, the district is taking the money from the second half of this year’s health care buyback (about $121,000 that was due to be paid in June) and redistributing it to all top step teachers as a one-time payment.
The most public sticking point of the negotiations – the district’s proposal to have teachers adopt health savings account-style insurance plans – is part of the final agreement and applies to all teachers. An earlier proposal offered by the School Committee exempted top-step teachers (about 70 percent of East Greenwich teachers are at the top step). The union rejected that contract proposal in December (here is a statement from EGSD after the rejection).
Currently, teachers pay 20 percent toward their health insurance costs. Under the new plan, they will continue to pay 20 percent but will also have a deductible – $2,000 for an individual plan, $4,000 for a family plan, half of which will be paid by the school district. So, an individual will have to pay $1,000, the district will pay the other $1,000; for a family plan, the split is $2,000 and $2,000. Once the deductible is met, all other qualified medical expenses would be covered by insurance.
The teachers union is the school district’s first bargaining unit to accept an HSA plan. The paraprofessionals union is up next, with their contract expiring this summer, and the custodian contract expires summer 2018. All town employees are on HSA plans.
Other elements highlighted in a press release issued by School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark included the agreement to reduce class size at Cole Middle School. In moving to a middle school model, teachers went from teaching five classes a day to teaching four, with common planning time built in. Under the new contract, teachers will again teach five classes with fewer students in each class. The contract calls for establishing a committee to come up with a new schedule to allow for the five-class load as well as the required common planning time.
The new contract also increases the school day for elementary teachers by 10 minutes, to 6 hours and 45 minutes, the same as teachers at the middle and high school.
The two sides have also agreed to study how Advisory time at the high school could meet state regulatory requirements “more effectively,” according to the press release.
Mark declined to comment further on the agreement.
Judi Cavanaugh, co-president of EGEA, said this in a statement released by the union on May 5: “Teachers are angry at the school committee and the town council for continuing to underfund the public schools of East Greenwich. The actions of the council and school committee undervalue our teachers and East Greenwich educators feel disrespected by this oppressive contract.”
It’s unclear whether or not the union’s decision to “work to rule” after an impasse last December is still in place.
Here are some links:
The School Committee’s 5/3/17 press release: http://egsd.net/…/egschoolcommitteestatementonratifiedcontr…
The School Committee’s 12/23/16 press release: http://www.egsd.net/…/egschoolcommiteepublicstatement12-23-…
The EGEA’s 12/27/16 Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014626394527