Burlington Board Blocked Road to Settlement in Rush to Walk Away from Contract Talks

In unfair labor practice charge filed with Vermont Labor Board, teachers assert school board imposed working conditions before legally allowed

MONTPELIER – The Burlington School Board committed six unfair labor practices – including multiple attempts to thwart a settlement – in its rush to walk away from contract talks with the city’s teachers, according to an unfair labor practice charge filed today with the Vermont Labor Relations Board.

The charge, filed by the Burlington Education Association, said that what started out as an attempt to reach a quick, one-year deal for the current school year turned into protracted roadblocks to a settlement that ultimately ended when the board walked away from the table and imposed an employment policy before it was legally allowed to do so.

“From the start, more than 16 months ago, all we wanted was to have a one-year contract in place this year,” said Fran Brock, a Burlington High School history teacher who serves as the union’s president. “We knew, and the board certainly knew, that the changes in health insurance looming next year means that we have some complicated bargaining ahead of us. It’s too bad the board chose division, delay, and roadblocks this year.”

The filing comes a day after hundreds of the union’s members voted overwhelmingly to strike Oct. 20 if a tentative contract agreement for the current year isn’t reached. The parties are scheduled to meet with a mediator on Oct. 19. The teachers, for their part, are hoping to settle. “I certainly hope the board has the same goal.”

 In its filing, the union said the board:

  • Engaged in regressive bargaining that prevented the possibility of reaching a settlement
  • Failed on multiple occasions to provide information requested by the union
  • Failed to fund the existing contract completely
  • Imposed employment policies before they were legally allowed to do so
  • Placed conditions on bargaining that prevented the possibility of reaching a settlement
  • Imposed employment terms that were unlawfully different from their final offer

“It’s too bad that the board has chosen the course it has, because instead of starting this school year in chaos and disruption, we could have had a contract in place,” Brock said. “It seems that the more than $50,000 the board’s leadership has spent on an anti-union consultant, a former superintendent and a bargaining adviser has brought them to this place.”

Brock said that she knows members of the board share the teachers’ dedication to the city’s students and she implores them to come to the table Wednesday ready to bargain a mutually acceptable settlement.

The ULP filing may be downloaded here.

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