Striking Andover public school teachers and the town’s School Committee were back at the negotiating table most of Saturday and late into the night as the educators’ union seeks higher pay and greater family and sick leave benefits.
The town’s public schools were shuttered Friday after most of the Andover Education Association’s 800 members authorized a strike Thursday, when the two sides failed to reach a new deal with the School Committee.
The strike comes following nine months of negotiations.
In separate statements Saturday, both sides said they had resumed contract talks at 10 a.m. The negotiations were still ongoing as of about 10 p.m.
“We are hopeful that we can end [the strike] as soon as possible, we just need the SC to bargain with us meaningfully and make fair proposals around our big ticket items,” said Julian DiGloria, the union’s vice president, in a text message Saturday.
Those issues include higher pay for instructional assistants, teachers, and other staff, longer recess time at the elementary schools, and improved parental and family leave policies, according to DiGloria, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in Andover.
“The School Committee urges the union to end their strike and return to school on Monday to prevent further disruption to the students’ education,” said Laura Giordano, a School Committee spokesperson.
It is illegal for teachers unions in Massachusetts to strike, and work stoppages are opposed by Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat. But unions in several communities — including Brookline, Haverhill, Malden, and Woburn — reached deals with their school departments after authorizing strikes over the past year-and-a-half.
Andover’s teachers walked the picket line in 2020 due to safety concerns in the workplace during the pandemic. The state’s labor relations board later ruled the strike was illegal.
On Friday, the first day of the strike, educators rallied at Andover’s town offices, many carrying signs with messages like “Fair Contract Now!” The School Committee said the state’s Employment Relations Board at the Department of Labor Relations ruled the union violated state law, and ordered union members end the strike and return to work, according to a statement released Friday.
The two sides met Friday for negotiations that began at 2 p.m. and lasted until 10 p.m., according to DiGloria.
The talks were assisted by a state-appointed mediator, according to the School Committee.
A key issue for the contract is pay. The School Committee has proposed increasing a starting teacher’s salary by 23 percent, to $58,870 over three years. Top-level teachers would receive an 11 percent raise, to $118,882, during the same period.
Union officials instead want a 16 percent wage increase over three years for all teachers, rather than just targeted hikes for the district’s lowest- and highest-paid teachers, according to the union.
The average teacher salary in Andover is about $94,000, according to state data.
Union officials have also said Andover’s instructional assistants, whose starting pay is just over $25,000 a year, earn far below what they need for a living wage, according to the union. An aide can earn a maximum of $38,000 a year, the union has said.
The School Committee proposed increasing the starting salary for an entry-level instructional aide to $32,889 over a three-year period. The union seeks a $40,000 starting salary for aides, union officials have said.
In a statement posted to the School Committee’s website, the committee said it has enhanced its paid parental leave proposal, which now includes 11 weeks of paid leave for all parents with a new child.
The proposal would be implemented through a combination of district-funded leave and accrued sick days, according to the statement.
The School Committee’s proposal makes this benefit available to both parents, if both are district employees, the statement said.
The union is proposing 12 weeks total leave for parents with a new child, including eight weeks paid by Andover Public Schools, according to a social media posting Saturday morning. It also proposes an additional four weeks of leave time — half paid by the schools and the remaining half drawn from workers’ sick time.
The union said the School Committee’s proposal includes three weeks paid parental leave and up to eight weeks of additional time drawn from an employee’s sick time. The employee would have to have the sick time accrued in order to use it for parental leave under that proposal, according to the union.
The union is also seeking to allow members to have up to 12 weeks of family medical leave, drawn from accumulated sick time, the posting said.
The School Committee proposes allowing union members to use up to six weeks for family medical leave drawn from sick days, according to the union’s posting. Additional leave time would be unpaid under that proposal, the union said.
Niki Griswold of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.