INTERVIEW with Adam Snodgrass, President of Teachers Union
GROTON HERALD: How do you and other teachers feel about 'Work to rule'?
GDEA: Most teachers are saddened by the necessity of implementing Work to Rule because they are genuinely unselfish and hold the best interest of students in the highest regard. WTR has been considered only as a last resort in a process that has been completely dysfunctional due to the unwillingness of the School Committee to bargain in good faith.
GROTON HERALD: Do you think the School Committee feels teachers deserve a significant raise in pay? Why? If so, what's keeping them from making a fair offer?
GDEA: The School Committee's actions do not reflect a respect for our work on behalf of their children, or the past concessions that we have made when the towns needed our help. It seems like there is a set value in the budget and those who oppose raises for teachers want to do all that they can to make sure that they get that value in the contract agreement with the GDEA. Why are they so adamant about keeping our raises down while they are so generous with other employees such as administrators and town employees?
GROTON HERALD: Please explain GIC (Group Insurance Commission) and its impact on school finances.
GDEA: I think it is very important for taxpayers in Groton to know that the decision by teachers to join GIC was based on an agreement that the savings on annual premium increases would be available for regular fair increases in salaries for employees.
GIC is a group insurance that insures a good portion of government employees in Massachusetts. When GDRSD and the towns of Groton and Dunstable joined GIC, this gave the towns an assurance that the annual increases in premiums would be kept to a minimum. The reason that this agreement to join the GIC is an important concession by employees is that we also give up the ability to bargain on plan design changes. Moving to GIC has meant that the town budgets have not seen annual increases in health care plan costs greater than one or two percent on average since we joined GIC.
We expect good faith bargaining by the School Committee to recognize the value of our agreement to join GIC. Fair raises are of even greater importance given that the employees are now paying these increased costs directly.
GROTON HERALD: Could you explain why teachers' acceptance of GIC should make it possible for the school committee to offer teachers a fair pay increase?
GDEA: Each year GDRSD has to budget for expected increases in health care plan costs. For the past six years, GDRSD has seen much lower increases than they have budgeted for. Costs of health care are being placed directly on employees through the plan design changes at the GIC. Those funds are available for fair raises. Raises should be given to all employees, not just town employees and administrators.
GROTON HERALD: What's your reaction to the cumulative 17 percent raise you indicate Groton-Dunstable school administrators have received in the last three years?
GDEA: When it comes to raises for school employees, GDRSD is out of step with society. They have no problem writing big pay increases for administrators that they trust to advise them on policy while failing to provide raises for most of their employees. It is sad that they don't see the connection between the funds that are made available for high pay increases for administrators when they hold back on pay increases for other employees. When we also look at the way that this arrangement helps to provide funds for good pay increases for town employees, we also see that as a lack of fairness.
GROTON HERALD: How likely do you think it is that there will be a contract agreement between teachers and the school committee after this Thursday's all-day negotiating session?
GDEA: Teachers have been bargaining in good faith since the very beginning. We hope for the same from the School Committee's team.