Union: Dover NH Teachers Work to Rule Over Contract Impasse
Members of the Dover Teachers Union will work to contract for the next two weeks as contract talks reach an impasse.
At issue is a clause enacted in the current agreement by the Board of Education that would stop a wage increase for the current academic year, the third year of the deal. The union wants the wage increase to still be enacted, but the board is standing by its decision. So, an impasse was declared.
Dover school district superintendent William Harbron told Seacoast Current that the two sides have agreed to work with a mediator, and have a session scheduled for Friday.
"The district wants our teachers to be fairly compensated for their work. But, the District has an obligation to consider the economic realities that confront the Dover community," Harbron said in an email. "The budgetary tax cap, a $2 million reduction in state education aid, and inflationary increases in operating costs place restrictions on what the district can responsibly offer in wage increases."
He said the board is aware of the contributions that teachers make to the lives of students and the challenges they face and overcame during the pandemic.
Hope of Bringing Both Sides Together
The union will show its displeasure with the state of negotiations by working to their contracted hours for the next two weeks. This typically means that those covered by a contract will work to it specifications and not perform extra duties or hours.
"Teachers will no longer be volunteering their time for clubs, sports, events, and other after-school programs for which they are unpaid. Additionally, communications from teachers will be limited to contracted hours only," the union wrote in a message titled "Dover Teachers Take Action."
"The hope is that with these actions, the school board can unite with the Negotiations’ Team in asking the city to support the previously negotiated contract which included a 2% cost of living adjustment. In a year that saw record-breaking inflation, the union feels this is a reasonable request," the union said in its message.
Harbron said that the contracted hours are the most important of the day and he is confident that Dover teachers will provide quality instruction for students.
"There are spring co-curricular activities such as spring sports. Teachers involved in these program have supplemental contracts," Harbron said.
Some parents are concerned that teachers not meeting with clubs will be "heartbreaking" for students coming out of the pandemic.
Proposals Rejected by the Union
Harbron said that the district made an initial proposal that was rejected, which provided for an increase in starting pay for new teachers and gave a step increase to senior teachers currently ineligible for a step increase. The result of this proposal is that all teachers would receive a pay increase of approximately 3.9%.
The union said in their message that a step increase is not a cost of living increase.
The district’s most recent proposal provides all teachers with a 2% cost of living increase and an approximately 3.9% step increase except those at the top step, according to the superintendent.
"In addition, the district proposed to conduct a wage study prior to the next round of negotiations, with the goal of determining what adjustments, if any, are necessary to keep the district competitive in the wage market," Harbron said.
The City Council has used this approach with City employees, and has indicated that it would fund a School district wage study, according to Harbron.