AMESBURY — The local teachers union ratified a new contract recently after going four months without an agreement.
Cindy Yetman, president of AFT Amesbury Local 1033, said her union ratified a three-year contract in December that also includes a one-year extension.
“We were able to work these things out and I am very pleased,” Yetman said. “We’ve been negotiating for about 14 months.”
Under the new contract, the union’s teachers unit and the multipurpose facilities technician/maintenance unit will receive a cost-of-living increase of 8.5 percent over the next four years retroactive to Sept. 1, according to Yetman.
“The contract expired on Aug. 30 of the last year, and my members just got their checks before Christmas, which is a nice receipt,” Yetman said. “This year will see a 2% raise. It is a one-to-one split. The following year is 2% and the following year is 2%. The very last year of the contract is 2½%.”
The new contract also allows for an increased hourly wage for teachers working beyond regular school hours and uniform accommodations for the district’s maintenance technicians.
“We had some things embedded in the contract that we are very pleased with,” Yetman said.
Yetman added that the union’s paraprofessionals unit settled for a one-year contract and is expected to begin negotiations again this month.
“They have some more issues to work out,” Yetman said. “The teachers are usually the first group to begin the bargaining and then the other groups follow along. So, the paraprofessionals were kind of put on hold until the teachers could come to an agreement. They need a little more time to settle their three-year agreement, which should bring them right up to the same cycle as all of us by around the late spring I expect.”
Yetman said Local 1033 began negotiating with the district in October 2018 before the previous contract ended in late August.
“We went without a contract from Sept. 1 up until December when the School Committee ratified the new agreement,” Yetman said. “But the bargaining process took about 14 months.”
The daily schedule at Amesbury High School — which will see a change from four blocks a day to six in 2020-21 — as well as the annual cost-of-living increase were the biggest sticking points in the contract negotiations, according to Yetman.
“The students will have two extra classes per day and, for the teachers, we had to work out what that would mean for them,” Yetman said. “We were looking at how many extra classes they will be teaching per year and what their preparation time would be to prepare for that change. We did a lot of work in that regard and we’ll be implementing that new schedule in the fall of 2020.”
Yetman said the contract negotiations ran long enough that both she and the School Committee jointly filed for mediation with AFT Massachusetts in June.
“We met for mediation twice and in the second session, we were able to come to an agreement,” Yetman said. “I really want to thank my bargaining team for hanging in there (and AFT Massachusetts field representative Eric Blanchet) all of this time. They worked really hard toward this.”
Yetman added that her union reached out to other city employee groups such as the police and firefighters unions as well as Public Works and City Hall employee unions who were also going through contract negotiations of their own.
“We all support each other in this and I think that also made a difference,” Yetman said. “That’s the way I will probably do this again. We are all public servants and we are looking for ways of doing our jobs well. We found we had more in common than we have differences.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.