fb-pixelNewton teachers strike: Union, School Committee fail to reach deal Skip to main content

After all night bargaining, Newton School Committee and teachers union fail to reach a deal to end strike

Newton Teachers Association and School Committee ended talks early Friday morning without reaching a deal.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

After negotiating throughout the night, the Newton Teachers Association and the School Committee were unable to make a deal on a new contract that would have ended an illegal strike that has canceled school for 11 days.

The talks between the two sides ended shortly before 6 a.m. The teacher strike in Newton is the longest to occur in Massachusetts in decades.

Negotiations will resume at 1 p.m. Friday.

The two sides finally reached an agreement on pay increases, the biggest flashpoint in negotiations thus far, though they continue to wrangle over a return-to-work agreement and an increase to social worker staffing.

Advertisement



School Committee chairman Chris Brezski told the Globe Friday morning the two sides are “down to literally the final details of this.”

“Hopefully, we’ll get this thing wrapped up real soon,” he added.

Brezski said the union had reduced its demands for cost of living hikes, and that its offer was reasonable.

In an early morning press release, the union agreed the financial proposals between both sides were identical, but accused the School Committee of trying to “weaken the agreements on social workers and alter other agreements affecting the working conditions of educators and the learning conditions of students.”

The union has been pushing for a written guarantee in the contract that every school will have a social worker, while the school district has only made a verbal commitment to the request.

The union also blasted the School Committee for attempting “to extract more than $1 million from educators” as part of a return to work agreement, which would charge the union for the costs associated with the strike, such as police details.

The early morning developments came one day after the School Committee canceled February vacation to make up class time lost to the strike and after Governor Maura Healey asked a Middlesex Superior Court judge to appoint a third party to force the union and School Committee to agree to a new contract.

Advertisement



At Healey’s direction, the state Labor Department also asked Judge Christopher Barry-Smith to order twice-daily status conferences with the labor board and Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler, which would allow him to “speak to the educational harms faced by Newton students each day that Newton’s schools are closed,” according to a court filing.

“It is unacceptable that school has been closed for two weeks in Newton due to the ongoing strike,” Tutwiler said in a statement Thursday.

The School Committee also went to court Thursday seeking a doubling of daily contempt fines against the union for striking. As of Friday, the union now owes the state $625,000 for striking for failing to end the strike. The state has not yet collected money, according to a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal for public employees, including teachers, to strike. But a small but growing number of teacher unions in recent years have gone on strike and secured new contract deals within a few days.

Attorneys for the Newton union, the School Committee, and the state Labor Relations Board are scheduled to return to court Friday for a 3 p.m. hearing.

In a blistering email to the community Thursday, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller shared a statement from Brezski who expressed deep frustration with the union’s negotiating tactics and refusal to end the strike. He noted the School Committee has repeatedly gone to City Hall seeking additional money to settle a contract, which has enabled the School Committee to add a fourth year to the contract, support the NTA healthcare demand, and increase compensation for paraprofessionals and provide them with a retention payment in December 2024.

Advertisement



He also said teachers would give significant pay bumps by the end of the four-year contract, pointing out for instance that teachers currently making $91,251 a year would see their salary increase beyond $121,000 a year, under the proposals that stood Thursday night.

“We have given every resource to this contract that we can without harming students,” Brezski said in the statement, adding that the package would keep Newton schools competitive with peer districts. “By contrast, the union proposal is not grounded in any economic reality or any competitive analysis.”

He also accused the Massachusetts Teachers Association of pushing the strike adding that the group, which represents Newton teachers and has been helping them at the bargaining table, “isn’t concerned about the aftermath of what’s left in its wake.” The Massachusetts Teachers Association has been lobbying Beacon Hill for more than a year to legalize teacher strikes.

The MTA, in a statement Friday morning, blamed Fuller for the strike by failing to provide enough money for the Newton schools, which the MTA contends caused negotiations to stall.

“This now adds to Mayor Fuller’s ongoing disrespect of Newton educators by suggesting they are mere puppets,” the statement said. “Newton educators, on their own and in a near unanimous vote after 16 months of trying to negotiate a fair contract, ultimately decided that the only way to win better schools for their students was to withhold their labor.”

Advertisement



Mandy McLaren contributed to this report.

This story has been updated to clarify a Feb. 1 newsletter by Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller was quoting from a written statement by School Committee Chairman Chris Brezski.


James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com. Follow him @globevaznis. Deanna Pan can be reached at deanna.pan@globe.com. Follow her @DDpan.