Updated: Haverhill Teachers Make Contract Dispute Public

Update reports a rebuttal by Haverhill City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr.

Members of the union representing Haverhill public school teachers may be taking their appeal for a new collective bargaining agreement with the school district to the public.

Haverhill Education Association First Vice President Ted Kempinski told WHAV members plan a demonstration at Thursday night’s school committee meeting.

“We will be presenting a petition signed by members of the union calling for a fair contract. Currently the teachers, administration, ESPs (education support professionals) and clerical staff are working without a contract,” Kempinski said.

While other business is scheduled on Thursday’s meeting agenda, the committee could vote to enter into executive session at the end of the public session. The Haverhill school committee meeting begins at 7 p.m. in city council chambers at Haverhill City Hall.

According to minutes of a March 12 meeting of the HEA faculty representatives, union President Joseph Cunha reported an action team produced a petition supporting the negotiations team “as an opportunity to show solidarity within the HEA before reaching out for support from the community.” The presence at the school committee meeting would be “a first visibility as they sign the petitions.”

At that meeting, Kempinski said the school committee is not hearing their grievances. He also reported that the committee walked out of the last negotiations session without discussing the contract over a proposed snow day makeup schedule. The next negotiations session could be held at the end of March or the beginning of April, according to the minutes.

According to city and school district records, a contract negotiating session scheduled on March 11 was cancelled.

Haverhill City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. disputed the union’s assertions.

“The HEA’s suggestions that the school committee’s team walked out of negotiations and refused to discuss the terms of the contract is absolutely not correct. The parties have had many meetings with many proposals exchanged by both sides,” Cox said this morning.

“They might be confusing the last meeting where the parties discussed make-up days for snow days and adjustments to the school year calendar, which is a contractual issue that must be bargained with the union. Unfortunately, they were unable to reach an agreement on that issue. The school committee voted to ask the union to meet again on the issue and try and reach agreement. The union advised that they were not able to meet within the two-week period before the next school committee meeting. The parties did have a date scheduled for further negotiations after their last session, but agreed to reschedule that date at the request of one of the parties,” Cox’ statement said.

“The school committee next proposed further meeting dates to continue negotiations and received a response from the HEA’s counsel only last week with new proposed dates. The committee remains confident the parties will meet shortly to continue good faith negotiations by both parties.”