PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The school board has adopted memorandums of understanding for four bargaining units which include “substantial increases”.
At a special meeting on Thursday, memorandums of understanding for the 2021-2022 school year and 2022-2025 school years were unanimously approved for bus drivers and attendants, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals and educational secretaries.
Unions are represented by the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees, a local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
On behalf of the negotiating team and the entire committee, Chairman William Cameron said he was “extremely pleased” with the agreements and hopes to settle the detention units soon.
“We have recognized partly because of the insistence of the employees and partly because of the realities of the labor market that we are making here significant wage settlements, significant increases in compensation paid to members of these units, and that we do it with pleasure,” he says.
“We’ve had difficult negotiations over the last 12 months, 12 and a half months, and some of those difficulties have been aired in public, have been criticized in public, and I’m delighted that we have been able to reach agreements at this stage. which will not only benefit our employees in the future, but which will also benefit employees when we have reached settlements with retroactively.”
He noted that the 2021-2022 memorandum of understanding will result in retroactive pay based on his pay scale, which he says is fair to those who continued to work during negotiations, retired during the period. or have worked until the end of the year.
Bus Drivers start at $22.65/hour in the 2022-23 school year and Bus Attendants start at $17/hour in the 2022-23 school year with a 50 cent increase each year until 2024. The 2021-2022 MOU states that bus drivers start at $22.15/hour and bus attendants start at $16.50/hour.
The starting salary for cafeteria workers in the 2022-2023 school year ranges from $15.50/hour to $22.01/hour depending on the position and increases by 50 cents each year until 2024. The Memorandum of Understanding 2021-2022 sets the starting salary between $15.00/hour and $21.51/hour. depending on the position.
The entry-level salary for paraprofessionals in the 2022-23 school year ranges from $16.50 to $19.50 depending on qualification and increases by 50 cents each year through 2024. The MOA entry-level salary 2021-2022 ranges from $16/hour to $19/hour depending on qualification.
The entry-level salary for educational secretaries ranges from $17.53/hour to $22.69/hour depending on qualification and position during the 2022-2025 school year and increases by 2% each year until in 2024. hour and $22.30/hour depending on qualification and position.
Prior to bargaining, AFT members had publicly called for higher wages, particularly during budget season.
“Tonight I’m here to say I’m angry, very angry, I’m angry that today we are no closer to settling this contract than we were seven months ago. I’m angry because me, my staff and co-workers all the time, we’re understaffed because we can’t get employees to work at that wage,” cafeteria worker Debi Rooney said during the review by the school committee of the fiscal year 2023 budget in March.
“I’m angry because the [cafeteria] continues to lose very good long term employees to low salaries, i’m angry because when we’re short staffed i’m told ‘well, you might just have to take things off the menu’ and who does it affect? It hurts children,” she said.
“Why shouldn’t I give them the full menu because I don’t have enough employees to take out the food that’s on the menu? I’m angry because you say you don’t have the money for pay us a living wage, but we all know that’s a big fat lie, it’s a big fat lie.”
According to the 2018-2021 cafeteria staff contract, in 2020-2021, elementary school chefs started at $15.57 per hour, high school/middle school chefs at $16.32, bakers at $13.59 and cafeteria helpers at $12.81.
Thursday’s vote was held in open session, but all negotiations were conducted in executive session, as it was believed that a public meeting could have a detrimental effect on the public body’s bargaining position.
“I would just like to say before adjourning that I want to express my sincere thanks to all the employees and all these units who have patiently waited for these negotiations to be concluded. I hope they find that these agreements are indeed I suppose the fact that they all voted to accept them, the four bargaining units in question voted to accept the memorandums of understanding is an indication of that, but I want to thank these employees for their patients,” said Cameron.
“It has been a rather exhausting experience for everyone and certainly for the members of your negotiation teams. I also want to express my hope that in a very short time we will have reached an amicable agreement with the custodial staff. so that all members of the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees will enjoy new contracts, better working conditions and much better pay.”
Key words: Pittsfield Public Schools, union contract,