WESTFIELD – Westfield Education Association President Lori Lyncosky said Unit A teachers will begin a “work to rule” action Feb. 14.
Teachers will work only according to the letter of their contracts, which means they will not perform work before or after school hours.
The work to rule will take effect at the close of the school day Friday in response to the withholding of retroactive payments to July 1, 2019 on a 1% raise that was negotiated and signed on Dec. 20, 2019. According to Lyncosky, City Auditor Christopher Caputo questioned the calculations on the salary schedule, which is holding up the retroactive payments as they are being reviewed. The 1% raise going forward is expected to be reflected in the Feb. 14 pay checks.
The work to rule action was an executive decision made by the WEA Executive Board on Feb. 3 to exhibit disappointment that the city was withholding the money. Lyncosky said the action was not put to a vote of union members and added that the Board would like 100% participation from Unit A teachers. “A union is the embodiment of solidarity. All for one, one for all,” she said.
“The impact this action will have will be on the activities that make the school experience a little easier or more fun. After school activities where the staff running it doesn’t get paid will be in abeyance until we are made monetarily whole. All work that a teacher does grading, planning, prepping, data entry, letters of recommendation will be done during the contracted school day,” Lyncosky said.
This poses a challenge for some teachers, said elementary school teachers speaking anonymously. They said because their students are so young, they can’t, for the most part, just give them an independent assignment while they prep for the day. These students still need help with reading and managing their time, learning study habits and more.
Lyncosky said the WEA has also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the city, “as the withholding of our negotiated raises which have been properly appropriated in the budget is a repudiation of contract.”
She said the district administration and superintendent are not involved in any way in the action being taken.
Human Resource Director Paula Ceglowski and Lyncosky both signed the ratified document on Dec. 20, 2019. A search of past contracts shows that the mayor has traditionally signed the contract.
Lyncosky said that on or about Dec. 22 Caputo emailed Ceglowski “asking why she thought she could sign the ratified document. He obviously had not looked at the Ground Rules for Negotiation which gives all members of the negotiating team power to speak for/represent their respective team. Director Ceglowski was acting as an agent for the School Committee.”
According to Lyncosky, Caputo stated that the contract should include the words “successor agreement.”
“Given his reticence to act on a negotiated contract and begin working on the anticipated raises and retroactive pay, it appears that Auditor Caputo ‘sat on’ the numbers,” Lyncosky said, noting that Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. signed the ratified contract on Jan. 10.
“Auditor Caputo began working on the salary schedules on or about Jan. 22, this is when he encountered what he says were ‘clerical errors in the schedule’,” stated Lyncosky. “I’d like to point out that he’s had the salary schedules in his possession for at least a month at this time.”
Lyncosky said the Board does not concur with Caputo’s assessment that there are errors in the calculations.
“The WEA disagrees with this statement as we had the salary schedules vetted by an accountant, who ran them through multiple platforms, several times. The calculated raises were correct,” she stated.
Lyncosky said the Board took action after seeing how contracts for other units within the city were handled.
“We have watched for eight months how the City Council and Mr. Caputo have handled negotiated raises with other unions,” she said in an email to The Westfield News. “It has taken that long for certain groups within the police and fire unions to receive their negotiated raises. The WEA finds this lack of urgency disappointing and completely unacceptable.”
Lyncosky encouraged teachers to call Caputo’s office to inquire when they should expect their pay.
The Westfield Public Schools Superintendent declined to comment on the matter and messages to City Hall were not returned by press time.