The HEA Bargaining Team met with the School Committee for our 4th session this month, this one lasting over 3 hours. Progress continues to be made, but as we approach the final day before implementation of the district’s transition plan we still do not yet have an agreement over changes to our current working conditions for the remainder of this school year.
In addition to some issues of language that need to be cleaned up several key sticking points remain, including School Committee demands to exclude vaccinated educators from quarantining requirements and reduce the paid leave for work-related exposure from 14 days to 10 days, and our mission to ensure fair consideration for educators whose circumstances don’t neatly fit into HR’s definition of “acceptable” accommodations for their own health issues, those caring for family members who are infected with COVID-19, or those who may continue to have COVID-19-related childcare issues.
We strongly believe that all educators should have the same rights to quarantine safely after an exposure regardless of vaccination status. For starters, vaccinated educators can still carry and spread the virus to others in their homes and community. The Committee’s proposal would also disincentivize educators from receiving the vaccine, if they haven’t already, and from voluntarily reporting it to the district once they have.
We also believe that the School Committee should honor as much of our original agreement as possible – changing only those areas necessary to comply with DESE’s mandate and improve working conditions for all as we navigate through the remaining weeks of the school year. Maintaining the 14-day paid leave for those who are exposed to the coronavirus while on the job should be as much about keeping promises to the educators who have put themselves at risk all year long working in-person as it is about ensuring that the infection rate in our community does not needlessly increase.
The School Committee argues that they are concerned only with maintaining adequate staffing, which is why they want to tighten up the quarantine and paid leave periods and exclude those who have been vaccinated from being entitled to such leave. Our position is that if the conditions in our community and in our buildings are safe enough to implement this transition, then the number of educators who will need to quarantine under our current agreement should remain as low as it has been the past few weeks.
We will meet again tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 in an attempt to resolve these final differences ahead of the long weekend and potentially the start of a whole new experience on Monday.
Mandy Breton and Emily Boulger
Bargaining Team Chairs