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Woburn teachers poised to strike Monday after contract negotiations stall


After another day of failed contract negotiations Sunday, Woburn schools will be closed Monday as the district’s educators take to picket lines.

“We could’ve gotten this contract settled tonight,” said Woburn Teachers Association President Barbara Locke in a statement after negotiations ended around 6:20 p.m. Sunday. “Unfortunately their reckless refusal to continue negotiations tonight means the planned strike will start on Monday, January 29.”

The WTA voted to go on strike in the coming week Friday if a deal could not be reached over the weekend. WTA and Woburn School Committee representatives resumed negotiations at 10 a.m. Sunday in a last ditch effort to keep kids in classes but failed to reach an agreement.

The WTA, comprised of about 550 teachers and school employees, has been without a contract since the previous one expired in August.

“The Committee remains firmly committed to bargaining in good faith with the WTA and working toward a resolution that is fair to all stakeholders and ensures high-quality education for the students of Woburn” the School Committee wrote in a statement Friday. “Illegal work stoppages do not help either party in achieving that goal.”

The WTA said they were willing to “continuing bargaining all night until a resolution was reached,” and noted particular sticking point.

“The Mayor and School Committee showed a complete unwillingness to negotiate the paraprofessional contract or offer them a living wage,” Locke wrote.

The WTA previously listed priorities including the raise for paraprofessionals, elementary school physical education classes twice a week, smaller class sizes, greater compensation for educators and compensation for all workdays. These provisions, they argued, are key to “attracting and retaining qualified, dedicated educators and support professionals.”

The district listing for full-time special education paraprofessionals’ starting salary is $22,621. The state lists the average Woburn teacher’s salary as $84,510 for 2020, about even with the state average.

In a statement Friday, the Committee said it filed a legal complaint against the union for considering the strike last Tuesday and are waiting for a judgement. Under state law, it is illegal for public employees in Massachusetts to go on strike and may result in hefty fines.

After a week-long strike in October, the Haverhill teachers union was fined $110,000 and the MTA $50,000, in addition to the hundreds of thousands paid to the city for damages. Following several strikes throughout 2022, the MTA has listed getting the anti-strike law overturned as a legislative priority this year.

Woburn teachers will form picket lines Monday morning and contract negotiations are scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m.


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