Woburn teachers, School Committee expected to resume contact talks at noon

[The Boston Globe] Woburn teachers, School Committee expected to resume contact talks at noon

Both sides said Saturday that they have tentative agreements on new contracts for the striking teachers and paraprofessionals. But the union has not agreed to Galvin’s demand that it pay $250,000 to help reimburse the city for costs incurred during the strike.

Union members are expected to rally outside the Joyce Middle School at 11:30 a.m., ahead of talks that are due to continue inside the building with Mayor Scott Galvin and members of the Woburn School Committee. The Woburn Teachers’ Association represents about 550 teachers, nurses, and paraprofessionals,

Woburn educators and the city’s public school leadership are expected to resume contract talks at noon Sunday, amid increasingly acrimonious negotiations and a week-long labor strike that canceled classes for nearly 4,300 students last week.


Those costs include police details, school lunches, and presenters for a professional development day canceled due to the strike, according to Galvin.

Galvin has said the reimbursement “is the final piece... We got real costs the city incurred.”

Barbara Locke, the union’s president, has said her members want to return to work, and sort out any reimbursements later. The union wants to see receipts before agreeing to pay for any costs to the city, she has said.

“The idea was to sit it aside, talk about it, and if it’s proved that we owe that, then we’ll pay that. In the meantime, we just want to get back to school,” Locke told the Globe Saturday.

The union’s strike began Jan. 30, after they failed to reach an agreement on a new contract following more than a year of talks.

Teacher strikes are illegal in the state. On Wednesday, a Middlesex Superior Court judge ruled that the Woburn Teachers’ Association and Locke violated an earlier injunction that ordered them to end their strike and return to work.


The Massachusetts Teachers Association is pushing for legislation that would allow educators and some other public sector workers to walk picket lines.

Across the state, teachers unions embroiled in protracted contract negotiations have been able to reach agreements with their school districts following brief strikes, or votes by union members to walk picket lines.

Brookline and Malden educators hammered out new contracts following one-day strikes, and in Melrose, the sides agreed to a new contract before a strike began. Haverhill teachers walked the picket line for nearly a week in October, and ultimately brokered an accord with the city’s school officials.

In Woburn, the most recent agreement, which was reached in January 2021, included a 1 percent pay increase for a year, according to the union. That agreement expired in August.

Locke and the union have focused much of their criticism on Galvin, whom they’ve blamed for being unwilling to negotiate ahead of the strike.

Galvin and the School Committee have said they are willing to bargain, but have repeatedly called for the union to abide by court decisions ordering them to return to the classroom.

In Woburn, the teachers union has said its priorities include higher wages, particularly for paraprofessionals, smaller class sizes, and twice-a-week gym classes for elementary school students.

The paraprofessionals in Woburn have a base salary of $22,000, and the union is seeking an increase to $27,000.

The average teacher salary is $85,000 in Woburn, according to a statement from Galvin and the School Committee.


Locke has said the Woburn teachers union has gone into debt to pay $85,000 in fines since the strike began. They have proposed making a $50,000 payment to local non-profits and a scholarship fund.

Galvin has said Woburn has not received money from the fines paid by the union.

The sides last met on Friday. They didn’t hold talks Saturday because a mediator was unavailable, according to the city.

Laura Crimaldi of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.