HAVERHILL — After five years of drawn-out negotiations, Haverhill's teachers have a new contract.
The agreement between the Haverhill Education Association and the School Committee grants the teachers raises totaling 4.5 percent over six years, from the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, through June 30, 2014. The teachers made health-care concessions that will save the city thousands of dollars, according to School Committee members and Marc Harvey, president of the Haverhill Education Association.
The teachers ratified the contract yesterday afternoon while the School Committee gave its unanimous approval last night. Haverhill employs approximately 600 teachers.
Mayor James Fiorentini, ex officio chairman of the School Committee, recused himself from voting on the contract because his son John Fiorentini teaches Latin at Haverhill High School. Nevertheless, the mayor, who has pushed hard to get city workers to pay a larger percentage of their health insurance premiums, said he was pleased with the settlement.
He said the teachers "stepped up to the plate to accept the new reality" — that cities and towns cannot keep shouldering huge increases in health care costs.
The teachers accepted the Value Option plan, in which other city employees have already agreed to enroll. The city has been paying 80 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums for teachers. That ratio will remain for the next fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2012, but in the next year, the city's share will drop to 77.5 percent while the teachers will pay 22.5 percent.
Finally, in the last year of the contract, the city will contribute 75 percent, the teachers 25 percent. As for newly hired teachers, they'll pay 30 percent of their premiums.
School Committee members Shaun Toohey and Scott Wood, who negotiated with the Haverhill Education Association, said the latter factor alone will save the city a substantial amount of money.
Harvey pointed out his union made many concessions in arriving at the new pact.
"Haverhill has been able to weather the financial storm of
the great recession and actually increase staffing during these difficult days because of fiscally prudent contract negotiations. Our commitment to our students is undeniable as witnessed by our actions in ratifying this concessionary agreement. We look forward to focusing on what we do best, advocating for educationally sound initiatives that help address the challenges facing our student and community," he said in an email to The Eagle-Tribune.
Superintendent James Scully said at last night's School Committee meeting the contract benefits the city, the teachers and "most importantly," students.
School Committee President Joseph Bevilacqua said settling with the teachers presents a "tremendous opportunity to move the system forward."
Wood said the contract will save the city $2 million altogether and will enable the district to "start school on the right foot." Toohey said the agreement will "stabilize" the school district.
School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti, who said during his campaign two years ago that he wanted to see the contract settled, lauded Harvey and his union members for their reasonableness.
"The teachers have now done their part," he said.
School Committee member Susan Danehy suggested that the members of the Haverhill Education Association recognized the economic woes plaguing the entire country.
They have students in their classes, she said, whose parents have lost their jobs. Danehy praised the teachers for "staying the course" and doing their jobs well despite working without a contract.
During the first three years of the six years covered by the pact, the teachers will receive no raises. Then, on the 91st day of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, their pay will edge up by 1 percent. They'll get a 1.5 percent increase the following fiscal year; then, for the final year of the contract, ending June 30, 2014, their pay will rise by 2 percent.
Harvey has estimated the average teacher earns about $67,000 per year.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.