Haverhill’s Education Support Professionals and School Committee Resume Talks Today

(File photograph.)

Haverhill’s education support professionals and the Haverhill School Committee are scheduled to try again today to resolve differences over proposed pay increases.

The ESPs, represented by the Haverhill Education Association, are calling for more progress toward earning, what they call, a “living wage.” Maureen Zuber, the ESP’s bargaining team chair, said the approximately 180 employees are asking for a 2% wage increase retroactive to the start of this school year and next, plus a $4,000 raise next year.

“Our proposal will accelerate our progress toward a living wage by bringing the starting salary for ESPs to $25,000 starting next school year,” Zuber said in a statement. “Haverhill’s ESPs have been undervalued and underpaid for long enough. It’s time for a market correction not just in Haverhill but across the country to make sure these educators and all school staff are compensated fairly for the essential services they provide.”

Elaborating, Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi told WHAV, such professionals have historically been paid “poverty wages” statewide, but there has been recent progress in places such as Somerville. He explained, “We’re trying to set a new standard.” Parolisi said the union’s interpretation of MIT’s living wage calculator for Essex County is an annual wage of $34,000 for one adult with no children if they work 2,080 hours per year.

The contract between the ESPs and school department expired last June and was initially stalled by the coronavirus outbreak last spring. Talks resumed last fall. Parolisi said the city has the money thanks to the Student Opportunity Act. Instead, Parolisi said, “I think some are worried about setting a precedent for other low-wage workers to organize around their own living wage demands.”

Zuber said the School Committee prefers to take “a slower, incremental path” to paying more. She said she has been waiting since her youngest daughter Kimberly started first grade, adding, “Well, my daughter is now a junior in college at UMass. I think I have waited long enough.”

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