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School nurses' group requests mediator for contract dispute

School nurses in a Massachusetts school district have asked state mediators to intervene in a contract dispute with school administrators that goes back to October 2011. Medford school nurses claim that they are paid 20 percent less than other school personnel even though the nurses are required to meet the same educational standards. The group includes 11 school nurses who serve more than 5,000 students in nine schools.

The contract dispute started in October 2011 when the nurses claimed they proposed a cost-neutral compensation plan that would not have cost the school district any additional money. However, the nurses say they have faced repeated delays in opening collective bargaining negotiations. The chairwoman of the nurses' bargaining groups says that they have a very strong case in mediation. She says they have the same requirements as other school professionals but are not paid as professionals.

The Medford Schools superintendent said the school board recognizes the importance of the nurses to the school system. He said the board understands the nurses' point but has not reached a conclusion on compensation or negotiations. He also stated that the board has to bargain with several other groups, including secretaries, cafeteria workers and custodians. The district reached a new three-year deal with teachers last year.

Mediation is one tactic commonly used to bring two parties together in a challenging negotiation. The mediator can help the two sides prioritize, communicate and find common ground. Contract disputes can often be lengthy and complex. There are many methods and courses of action one can take to progress the negotiation. An attorney with contract dispute experience could evaluate the situation and provide recommendations on the best course of action.

Source: Wicked Local, "Medford school nurses file for state mediation over contract dispute", Nicholas Iovino, July 17, 2013

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