City and teachers union close to health insurance deal in Lynn

LYNN — The School Committee and Lynn Teachers Union have reached a tentative agreement on health insurance, but negotiations regarding potential wage increases will continue.

The School Committee voted on Thursday night to allow Mayor Thomas M. McGee to sign a “memorandum of understanding” with the Lynn Teachers Union which says the two parties will continue to negotiate other non health-related matters, including potential raises, if the health insurance memorandum is ratified by the union.

Details regarding the agreed-upon health insurance plan have not been made public, but the coverage would be from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2022. Negotiations and the vote to enter into the tentative agreement occurred during an executive session following a regular School Committee meeting.

McGee told the City Council on Tuesday night that a tentative agreement has been reached with about a dozen of the city’s unions for cost savings through health insurance changes, but declined to say whether there would be raises for employees.

The mayor has said the agreement is for contracts through the current fiscal year 2019 and on health insurance for the next three fiscal years, subject to ratification by the unions.

This tentative agreement comes after months of good faith negotiations and recognition by all, that health insurance costs needed to be addressed in order for the city to move forward,” McGee said on Tuesday night. “It preserves the much-needed benefits for our employees, while realizing budget savings.”

Negotiations were held on Thursday night despite an announcement from School Department attorney John Mihos that four committee members had conflicts of interest that would have normally disqualified them from taking part and voting on an agreement with the teachers union.

Mihos read a legal opinion from City Solicitor George Markopoulos that found the disqualifying conflicts of interest involved “financial interests of immediate family.”

But if all four committee members were barred from taking part in contract negotiations with the union, there would not be a quorum, or a minimum amount of members required in order for the proceedings to take place.

Markopoulos said no other city board would legally be allowed to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union. Therefore, the city solicitor advised McGee that he could invoke a “rule of necessity,” which would allow those committee members to enter into negotiations despite their conflicts.

“The rule of necessity can only be used in very limited circumstances where an elected board is legally required to take certain action(s) which cannot be undertaken by any other board or authority and it lacks enough members to take valid official action solely due to board members being disqualified by conflicts of interest from participating in the matter,” Markopoulos wrote.

“The rule of necessity may only be used as a last resort in order to carry out the legally required actions that otherwise would be prohibited by the conflict of interest law.”

McGee, chairman of the School Committee, opted to invoke the rule of necessity, which required all four members to disclose their conflicts of interest.

Committee vice chair Donna Coppola said she has a daughter employed by the Lynn Public Schools, who is a member of the teachers union. Committee member John Ford has two daughters who are members of the teachers union.

Committee member Michael Satterwhite said his wife is a nurse in the district and he’s on the school health insurance plan. Committee member Lorraine Gately said she is a retired teacher, a Lynn Teachers Union delegate to the North Shore Labor Council, and is on the district’s retired teachers’ health insurance plan.

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