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Newton

Newton’s school nurses call for pay equity with teachers

Sue Riley, president of the union representing Newton's school nurses, spoke to supporters during a demonstration outside City Hall on July 1.
Sue Riley, president of the union representing Newton's school nurses, spoke to supporters during a demonstration outside City Hall on July 1.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

The union representing Newton’s school nurses is calling on the city to resume talks on a new contract, more than a year after their previous agreement ended, the organization’s president said.

Newton Public Health, which represents 28 school nurses in Newton, is seeking pay increases on par with those received by Newton’s educators in their most recent contract, said Sue Riley, the president of the nurses union.

Their previous agreement ended in June 2019, but by June 18 of this year, a new four-year deal still had not been reached, Riley said.

According to Riley, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has offered a “near-zero” increase in a new contract. No future date for negotiations has been set, Riley said.

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“We have not heard from the city at all,” Riley said in an interview. “At this point, negotiations have completely stalled.”

Ellen Ishkanian, a city spokeswoman, said there are typically no negotiations during the summer when nurses are on vacation. The city would be happy to schedule a bargaining session if the nurses request a meeting, Ishkanian said.

Fuller, in a statement, said she has a deep appreciation for the city’s nurses and the vital role they play in Newton’s schools.

“Please know that bargaining is ongoing, and I am hopeful that a mutually agreeable settlement will be reached,” Fuller said. “The bargaining process is confidential, per the ground rules of the negotiations, so I’m unfortunately not able to speak to the details of the negotiations.”

The city’s school nurse union, which is a bargaining unit of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, negotiates directly with the city instead of the Newton School Committee, Riley said.

Last November, the Newton Teachers Association, which represents about 2,100 educators and many other school workers, reached a four-year agreement with the city’s schools.

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Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s schools were closed in March. Riley said she and many other school nurses have since worked as contact tracers for the city, as officials try to identify cases of COVID-19 and slow the spread of infection in Newton.


On July 1, Riley and other school nurses rallied outside Newton City Hall with their supporters to draw attention to the contract issues. Many of the nurses carried signs calling for pay equity and demands for nurses to be treated as essential employees.

Riley, who pledged during the rally that nurses would continue to “stand strong,” held a sign that read, “School Nurses Save Lives - What’s Your Super Power?”

In an interview Tuesday, Riley said residents, school colleagues, and the Newton Teachers Association have been backing the nurses.

“It has been overwhelming to see the groundswell of support from the community,” Riley said.

Matt Lee of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Newton school nurses during a July 1 demonstration outside City Hall.
Newton school nurses during a July 1 demonstration outside City Hall.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.