GLOUCESTER, Mass. − The ten registered school nurses who care for Gloucester’s 3,000-plus public school children, and who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, have requested the intervention of a state mediator to assist in their current negotiations with the Gloucester School Committee over how to move onto the professional pay scale.
In Sept. of 2011, the parties settled a two-year contract that included language specifying that, in the subsequent contract, the school committee place the school RNs on a salary scale equal to that of the other professionals. The method that was to be used for this placement process was to be negotiated; but two years later, the nurses have been unable to make any headway. Despite the nurses offering several placement proposals that would have actually saved the school committee money, these efforts were rejected. An interim one-year contract that extended the contract expired on August 31, 2013.
"The school committee does not appear to be bargaining in good faith," said Cindy Juncker, RN, BSN, M.Ed., NCSN and bargaining committee member. "They have not moved from their original proposal about how to move us onto the professional pay scale."
Registered nurses who work as school nurses in the state of Massachusetts are required to be licensed as both RNs by the Board of Registration in Nursing and as professionals by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In addition, DESE is requiring nurses to be evaluated using the same tool that is used to evaluate other professional support personnel such as guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, librarians, and school psychologists. Yet many school nurses, like those in Gloucester, are paid on a wage scale that is considerably lower than that of other school professionals. Nurses in surrounding communities including Rockport, Manchester/Essex, Beverly, Salem and Danvers are paid on the professional salary scale.
"We have been fighting this fight for a very long time," added Juncker. "It’s time for the Gloucester School Committee to uphold its end of the agreement and bargain in good faith over how to move us to the professional pay scale. It’s just too bad that we’ve needed to turn to a state mediator in order to get things moving in that direction."