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Educators protest with ‘work to rule’

(June 5, 2015) At least a few teachers from each of Worcester’s 14 schools are participating in a “work to rule” salary protest in response to the absence of a raise in the Worcester County Commissioners’ budget for the next fiscal year.

“Work to rule” means doing only what the rules or contract require and nothing more. In this case, the teachers are entering school at the exact time they are required and leaving promptly at the end of the school day. The idea is to demonstrate how much more teachers in the county do beyond the dictates of their contract.

During budget work sessions late last month, the commissioners voted to remove funding for step and cost-of-living adjustments for all county employees, including teachers. That decision was ratified Tuesday morning when the commissioners formally adopted the FY 2016 budget without changes in a 5-2 vote. Commissioners Bud Church and Joe Mitrecic voted against the adopted budget, specifically citing the raise funding as a reason for their dissent.

The county commissioners decide how to fund 13 separate areas of the Board of Education’s budget, of which one is employee salary. The teachers’ union can then negotiate a contract based on that figure.

The Board of Education can, subject to the commissioners’ approval, reallocate funding between the areas. This is traditionally done at the end of the calendar year, Assistant County Administrator Kelly Shannahan said.

“We were hoping that commissioners would fund a pay increase to all county employees, but they have not. As a result, we are forced to decide if giving our employees a pay increase warrants internal reductions. Because we believe our employees have earned a pay increase, we will be seriously considering the options. For us, our people come first; they are worth it,” Superintendent Dr. Jerry Wilson said.

All seven of the commissioners said they would be willing to listen to a proposal from the Board of Education, should it decide to pursue this option to fund step increases.

This is the fourth time in six years the county commissioners have decided to forgo step increases for county employees by invoking a circuit-breaker clause that permits them to skip raises because of financial limitations. The county has used this measure in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

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