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Watertown Education Association forms new contract

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After nearly three years of negotiations behind closed doors, the Watertown Education Association has a new union contract.

The city school district’s Board of Education approved the document June 5.

According to WEA President Dianne H. Loonan, the past several years have been used to negotiate three major changes while waiting for the economy to improve.

“It was about working together,” Mrs. Loonan said. “That’s what negotiations are about: give and take. I think we were both waiting to see what the economy was going to do.”

Because the last document ended in 2009, teacher salary increases from the previous years had to be included. In school year 2010-11, salaries rose 2.5 percent.

During the budget process in May 2011, members voted against a pay freeze after 25 teacher and aide positions were cut. During the current year, salaries jumped 2.7 percent. From this fall until summer 2014 they will rise 2.9 percent each year.

In addition, teachers will pay 12 percent of the health insurance premium beginning July 1. They were previously paying 11 percent. Next July, it will be increased to 13 percent.

Health insurance for retirees also changed. Starting July 1, 2013, newly retired teachers will pay half of what they are paying for their premium. In the existing system, they pay none of it.

A tentative deal was reached in early March. The last contract ended June 30, 2009, but remained in effect under state law.

Teacher salaries continued to be increased a “step” every year, an average of 2.1 percent annually, according to Mrs. Loonan.

The WEA teachers union has about 350 members, according to this year’s count. A new five-year contact will be needed again in two years.

“I think this is a good contract for the times. The process will begin again in 2013,” she said. “We’ll survey our numbers. We’ll start compiling things.”

Superintendent Terry N. Fralick was unavailable to comment.

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