WE HAVE MOVED: Please visit The Union News blog: here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Teachers ignore court, continue strike

Despite a threat of a $150,000 fine, Quincy teachers returned to picket lines this morning in front of the district's 19 schools as a strike entered its fourth day.

Negotiating teams for the Quincy Teachers Association and the School Committee met with a mediator until 4 a.m. and returned to the bargaining table again later this morning. A gag order has been issued barring either side from discussing the talks.

"We are really just determined to get a fair contract," said Linda Monaco, a sixth-grade teacher at Sterling Middle School and a union spokeswoman. "We are trying to get this settled to the best of our ability. We want to be back in our classrooms."

On Tuesday, a Norfolk County Superior Court judge threatened to fine the 890-member union $150,000 if the strike continued. The teachers defied an injunction issued by the judge on Monday when they walked off the job. Teachers strikes are illegal in Massachusetts.

City leaders in Quincy want to shift some health insurance costs to teachers, who say the higher premiums would wipe out proposed wage hikes. The issue has been the primary sticking point in nearly 30 negotiating sessions in the past 15 months.

City and school officials propose raising teacher salaries by 13 percent over four years but want employees to assume 20 percent, rather than the current 10 percent, of their health coverage costs.