Contract ratified for Northampton school union employees

  • About 80 members of the Northampton Association of School Employees had gathered for a standout for fair wages on the steps of City Hall by 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, 2022, with more expected after the end of the high school day at 3:30. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 6/28/2022 8:23:04 PM
Modified: 6/28/2022 8:20:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Association of School Employees, the union that represents all eligible employees in the city’s public schools, has ratified a new three-year contract by a nearly unanimous vote.

“I am thrilled that we have a supportive School Committee that worked collaboratively with us to come up with a fair contract for all of our employees,” NASE President Andrea Egitto said.

The vote, held Monday for the 547 members across the union’s six Northampton public school units, was 98.9% in favor of ratification. Last week the School Committee voted unanimously in favor of ratification.

“I’m just so happy that we were able to get a contract ratified,” said Ward 3 School Committee Member Emily Serafy-Cox, who led negotiations on behalf of the committee.

The contract contains significant pay increases for the school’s lowest-paid workers. Both paraprofessionals and cafeteria workers will get $2 an hour yearly raises for each year of the contract, in addition to any step increases they may qualify for. The current starting pay for a paraprofessional in the district is $16.40 an hour, while it is $14.25 for a cafeteria worker.

“We’re trying to bring up our lowest-paid employees,” Egitto said.

Clerical workers and custodial workers will get yearly $1 an hour increases for each of the three years of the contract, in addition to any step increases, while teachers and licensed staff will get yearly 3% cost-of-living increases in addition to any step increases. Administrators in the union will get a 3% increase in the first year of the contract, and 2.5% increases in the next two years, in addition to any step increases.

“This contract is an investment in making sure that we are able to attract and retain high-quality educators,” said Serafy-Cox.

Serafy-Cox said that the committee is concerned with retaining educators in the district, which requires investment. And she said that they’re humbled by the support of city taxpayers who voted to fund education in the last Proposition 2½ override.

Egitto said that the gains in the contract are the culmination of a six-year effort.

“Our entire membership was committed to raising the floor for our lowest-paid employees,” she said.

Negotiations for the new contract began on Jan. 1, and Egitto praised the conduct of the School Committee in negotiations.

“This School Committee is very much in support of its employees,” she said, while also saying that the negotiations were not adversarial.

That didn’t mean that NASE didn’t stage actions, however.

NASE organized an April 14 standout on the steps of City Hall that drew about 80 union members and their supporters to demand better pay. The union also organized an online letter-writing campaign in which 450 letters were sent to the School Committee.

Egitto, however, said that the union did not get everything that it wanted, including reducing class sizes and changing the structure of special education departments.

The final step for the contract will be for both sides to sign it, and it is set to go into effect at the start of the new fiscal year on Friday.

Serafy-Cox said that she and her fellow School Committee members are invested in working collaboratively with the union. She also expressed appreciation for the people negotiating for the union after doing hard jobs earlier in the day.

“And then getting up the next morning to be at school,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com. Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.
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