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School Committee Responds to Union Action

Calls comments by union boss "a serious breach of bargaining protocol."

Dear Staff:

The Belmont School Committee would like to address a serious issue that has arisen in the recent weeks. Since the fall of 2011, the Committee and Unit D of the Belmont Education Association (representing Professional Aides, Tutors, and Classroom Assistants, among others) have been negotiating a successor collective bargaining agreement. After months of negotiations did not yield an agreement, the Committee sought and received the assistance of a state mediator in accordance with the provisions of the public sector bargaining law. Mediation is a confidential process.

On May 21, the parties met with the mediator. At the end of a five-hour session, the Committee’s representatives left believing that with the mediator’s help a deal might be possible at the next meeting on June 18. To the surprise and disappointment of the Committee, shortly after the session, BEA President Robert Antonellis circulated a system-wide email disclosing his version of the confidential discussions between the parties in mediation. This action is a serious breach of bargaining protocol. Mr. Antonellis again violated mediation protocol when he read a prepared public statement at the June 5 School Committee meeting that contained confidential information from mediation and made multiple claims about the negotiating process that went far beyond what Mr. Antonellis said in his earlier email. 

The Committee respects the statutory mediation process and the need for complete confidentiality. As a consequence, it will not comment on the substantive allegations made by Mr. Antonellis in his email or at the June 5 School Committee meeting, other than to say that it disagrees completely with his characterization of the mediation events and the School Committee’s positions. The Committee is profoundly disappointed by the union’s decision to breach the confidentiality of the mediation process. 

The Committee wants to reach a fair agreement with Unit D consistent with the settlements reached with the other bargaining units of the Belmont Public Schools. It recognizes Unit D’s members’ hard work and contributions to the system, but the agreement must be sensitive to the school system’s financial capabilities. The agreement must also be fair to the other unions that have already settled their contracts with the Committee. These are very difficult financial times for our school system, as well as our town. We trust the parties can work together with the assistance of the mediator to reach a mutually agreeable resolution in a respectful and professional manner. 

Laurie Graham

Chairwoman, Belmont School Committee

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