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Rhode Island Teachers Nearing Resolution in Contract Dispute

Saturday, September, 2, 2017

Despite efforts to negotiate a new contract between Warwick Rhode Island teachers and the School Committee, the dispute will head back to mediation.   According to the independent mediator overseeing the talks, the two sides have been told that mediation is still the best possible option for resolving the contract dispute. 


In July, the School Committee voted to accept the mediated contract, but the Warwick Teachers Union Local 915 stated that proposal was not binding.   According to a member of the union, “While the mediator’s findings brought the parties closer together.  There are still a number of issues that are unresolved and need to be negotiated”.  These issues include topics such as how special education teachers should be assigned to classes with students who need the extra support. 


The latest failed contract proposal came from each side proposing its “last, best offer”.


The mediations and negotiations have been ongoing since 2015, which was when the last contract expired.   Each side now feels they have reached a point where they have narrowed down the issues, but just cannot finalize the contract. 


Mediators overseeing the talks believe that both sides have valid points.   They believe it was appropriate for the School Committee to vote on the last, best offer, but also acknowledge the union had a right to not vote. 


According to Schools Superintendent Philip Thornton, the school district accepted the mediated offer.   He also stated both parties have expressed interest in arbitration, but pointed out that not all of the arbitrator’s decisions will be binding, especially when it comes to issues that involve the expenditure of funds.   It is for this reason both parties are being encouraged to return to mediation – because even with arbitration, all of the issues will likely not be resolved.