The School Committee and the Union had a collective bargaining agreement in effect from September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2020. The parties had scheduled negotiations for a successor agreement to start in March of 2020, but this schedule was disrupted when school districts across Massachusetts closed to in-person instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Negotiations between the parties began in August of 2020 but were paused to allow the Union and the Committee to engage in negotiations regarding the impacts of operating during the pandemic and the impacts associated with implementing hybrid and remote models of instruction. Negotiations for a successor IA agreement resumed in November of 2020. Between August of 2020 and May of 2021, the parties held eight bargaining sessions.
With the 2021 fiscal year deadline approaching (June 30, 2021) and no bargaining progress being made, an impasse was reached, affording the parties an opportunity for state assistance in reaching an agreement. The Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) appointed a mediator, and he held five sessions in June and July of 2021. When these mediation sessions were unsuccessful at bringing negotiations to resolution, the DLR moved the parties to fact-finding.
The fact-finding hearing was held in Andover on November 9, 2021. Post-hearing briefs were originally due from each party on December 23, 2021, however the Union asked for and received two extensions on the submission of their brief. Ultimately, the fact-finder received the information necessary to inform her report on January 15, 2022, and issued her report on February 18, 2021.
As outlined on the DLR website, "At the conclusion of fact-finding, the fact-finder must submit his or her report to the parties and the DLR. The recommendations contained in the report are advisory and do not bind the parties." The School Committee and Union have bargaining sessions planned the week after February vacation to continue working toward an agreement.