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Manchester teachers' contract to be negotiated by committee

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 10. 2014 10:51PM

MANCHESTER — The school board has voted to again form a special committee to handle negotiations with the teachers on a new contract.

The vote on Monday represents a return to the strategy the board adopted two years ago, when it first sought to play a lead role in coming to terms on a multi-year contract with the teachers union, the Manchester Education Association.

Those negotiations did not yield an agreement; nor did subsequent rounds overseen by Mayor Ted Gatsas. Most recently, the general membership of the union voted down an agreement that would have significantly increased the share the teachers pay for their health insurance, while also hiking their salaries. The teachers’ current health plans have been deemed exceptionally “generous” by the Anthem consultants that oversee the plans.

Teachers have turned out in large numbers on Monday, as they have at the previous two school board meetings, to call for a "fair contract," while also raising concerns about the greater demands being placed on them due to new standards and assessment requirements.

Gatsas expressed frustration about the ongoing impasse. The teachers are in their second year of working without a contract, a situation that freezes their salaries, along with the terms of their health insurance.

"When you have two groups in the bargaining unit, to make both happy is almost impossible," Gatsas said, referring to the fact that the union's executive board voted for the contract while the general membership resoundingly rejected it.

Ward 11 board member Katie Desrochers criticized a member of the union's executive board for voting for the contract and then harshly criticizing it in public comments before the board."I found out it rather disingenuous for a member of the executive board to berate us," she said.

Ward 9 board member Art Beaudry, who has generally been supportive of the teachers union, questioned whether it wasn't time to bring in an outside arbitrator.

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