While an extension of the teacher’s contract expired on Friday and no agreement had been reached as of yesterday, Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, said yesterday that the parties are close to an agreement and he does not expect any disruption with schools today. Schools opened last Wednesday before the agreement expired.
The issue of what would happen should the parties fail to reach an agreement by Aug. 31 was raised earlier this summer when talks appeared to have stalled. The sides agreed to mediation, but then the Warwick Teachers Union could not agree on a mediator.
At the time, James Ginolfi, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, said he expected the 20 percent co-payment for health insurance that the union agreed in with a one-year extension of the contract would roll back to a payment of $11 a week. If that were to happen, the School Department would be faced with paying an additional $2 million in the current fiscal year that it hasn’t budgeted.
As of last week, Rosemary Healey, human resources director for the Warwick School Department, would not disclose the status of contract talks.
“We’ve agreed not to discuss the status of the talks publicly,” she said Thursday.
Healey said she doubts the union and school department will see eye to eye without legal intervention should an agreement not be made by Tuesday. Healey surmised that the teachers would stand by the terms in their old contract, while the school department would adamantly push for renegotiation.
“Legally, our positions would be at odds,” she said.
Though teachers are legally not allowed to strike in Rhode Island, Healey did not rule out the possibility.
“We haven’t had the teachers union take strike action since the early 1990s,” she said.
“It is my understanding they are very close to a settlement,” Flynn said in a telephone call yesterday.
Neither Bethany Furtado, chair of the Warwick School Committee, nor Ginolfi could be reached for comment yesterday.
A special school committee meeting has been scheduled for tonight. The contract is listing on the agenda.