9/3/07

Teachers to begin strike on Tuesday

Tiverton (RI) teachers could walk out at the start of school on Tuesday after talks with school officials failed to reach a deal Sunday. That's according to union boss Patrick Crowley of the National Education Association-Rhode Island, who says the next negotiating session isn't scheduled until Tuesday morning.

He says it's likely Tiverton teachers won't be at work on Tuesday and that the union is already calling teachers there to prepare for a strike. "There's likely a strike will happen at the start of school Tuesday morning," Crowley said Sunday. "The decision has been made to start the phone tree and inform the members not to show up for work."

The talks bogged down on health care premium costs and salary demands.

Crowley said school officials wanted teachers to pay higher premiums while the teachers want to switch to a higher deductible plan. On the issue of salaries, the school committee was offering a 1 percent increase.

Teachers were asking for a 4 percent hike for the three year contract, he said.

A call to the chairwoman of the Tiverton School Committee was not immediately returned on Sunday.

There's also a question mark hanging over the start of school in other districts.

In Burrillville, teachers are scheduled to meet Monday morning in the superintendent's office to try again to work out differences.

The discussions there came after Superior Court Judge Netti Vogel ordered the teachers union and school officials to keep negotiating on a new deal through Labor Day. That order came after talks broke down last week and the teachers voted to strike.

Vogel said if there's no agreement by 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, she would order the teachers back to work.

In Burrillville, teachers and school officials are also split on ages and benefits, but also on the issue of class size.

The school committee is trying to increase class size limits while the union is trying to maintain the current limits.

Burrillville schools were supposed to open last Wednesday, but officials canceled school for the week.

Talks in other communities were expected through the holiday weekend, including East Greenwich and Foster-Glocester Regional School District.

(boston.com)

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