Surprisingly or not – perhaps reliant on your level of cynicism – the tentative agreement between the Warwick Teachers’ Union and the Warwick School Committee is taking longer than was expected to hammer out details into a formal collective bargaining agreement.
When state-appointed mediator Vincent Ragosta and invited mediator Mayor Scott Avedisian announced in a press conference on Oct. 19 that the two sides had finally reached agreeable terms for a contract, Avedisian said that the final loose ends should be tied into a real agreement within 10 to 14 days. That two week window passed on Thursday, Nov. 2.
When asked if there was any tangible reason for the delay, Ragosta said that to his knowledge it was just a matter of underestimating the timetable for piecing together a true collective bargaining agreement out of the fragmented pieces of the tentative deal.
“I am not aware of any change in the landscape of the agreement,” he said. “As far as I’m aware as the mediator, no one has reached out to me to indicate there’s been any disruptions in the agreement or any wrinkles at all.”
Union president Darlene Netcoh declined to comment on whether or not the union as a whole or its executive committee had gathered to look over the details of the proposed agreement, saying that the two sides had agreed to not publicly discuss any workings of the tentative deal.
The proposed contract will go before the school committee on Tuesday, Nov. 14 during their regularly scheduled meeting. A meeting that was originally planned for tonight was cancelled.
If the school committee votes to approve the tentative agreement, it will then go before the union for a vote. If they also agree, it will become the new collective bargaining agreement which will cover the previous two years the teachers worked without a contract and the next three years going forward.
Once the terms of the agreement are brought out of executive session at the Nov. 14 meeting, it will become public information, and the details in regards to any retroactive and future pay raises will become known, in addition to any changes in contract language – such as class size restrictions and allowable ratios of special educators per students with special needs in classes.
The final deal will closely resemble the final award that is to be granted by independent arbitrator Michael Ryan, a Maine-based attorney, with a few key tweaks. The reason for this is because the two negotiating sides were provided a draft version of the final arbitration award when they went into the final mediation session at City Hall on Oct. 18, which revealed to each side which issues would be made binding, and provided an impetus for each sides to make amicable agreements to certain issues before that award was released.
That independent arbitration award, like the finalization of the tentative agreement, has long past ran over its initial timetable for being released, and sources have conflicting guesses as to when it will be released. Superintendent Philip Thornton said it would likely be released in accordance with the deal following the school committee meeting next week. Ragosta said it could be any day now.
Regardless, Ragosta maintained his optimism that the two sides will be able to agree on the deal that was seemingly successfully mediated over two weeks ago.
“I think the parties are really buttoning everything up and it takes a certain amount of time to do that and that's where they are now,” he said. “I'm very hopeful that everything will gel and will be consistent with what was mediated.”