Burlington Teachers Protest Contract Imposition | Off Message

Burlington Teachers Protest Contract Imposition


A Burlington High School hallway - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • A Burlington High School hallway
The Burlington School Board’s decision last week to impose terms of pay and benefits on the teachers’ union has not ended a labor dispute that persists despite a year of negotiations. 

The union has assailed the move as unfair and said it would breed “chaos” — perhaps making a not-so-veiled reference to the union’s right to strike.

Burlington Education Association president Fran Brock urged the board this week to come back to the table. “There is only one way to come back from the brink, and that is for the board to rescind the imposition and reach an agreement with us,” Brock said in a prepared statement.

It’s unusual for a Vermont school board to impose working conditions. It’s happened only about 20 times since 1969, according to the Vermont-NEA, which represents thousands of teachers in the state.

Buttons that the union is encouraging members to wear - BURLINGTON EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
  • Burlington Education Association
  • Buttons that the union is encouraging members to wear
Strikes are also uncommon, said Darren Allen, communications director for the Vermont-NEA , adding that he hopes the BEA and Burlington school board will settle.

The Burlington union has not announced a strike vote, in which members would weigh the decision to strike. Informational pickets are planned, according to teachers. 

School board attorney Joe McNeil vows to vigorously defend the district from a grievance that the teachers’ union filed September 14, the day before the board voted to impose a pay and benefits policy for the current school year.

The employment policy gives teachers a 2.75 percent raise and an average salary increase of $1,900 for the year. The Burlington Education Association had most recently called for a 3.25 percent increase.

The union filed the grievance to support its contention that the board promised to keep teacher pay in “the middle of the middle” of comparable teacher pay in Chittenden County back in 2013 and that the board must keep that promise going forward.

The board has maintained that the language in the union’s most recent contract, a three-year pact that expired August 31, should not dictate the terms of any new agreement. The language was deleted in the employment policy that the board imposed last week.

The board said in a statement that it was committed to keeping the total compensation package for teachers “regionally competitive” but would not accept language that “automatically ties the salaries of Burlington teachers to salaries negotiated in surrounding towns.”

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