Central District 104 and the union representing its teachers and support staff should both have submitted their most recent, best offers to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) by today, March 27, as required by state law when two sides are unable to reach an agreement in a contract negotiation.
The posting process was initiated by the school board on Feb. 20.
Considering the misinformation provided to the public and media over the past weeks, the board views this statutory process as an opportunity to resolve any misunderstandings concerning the parties respective offers, while fully apprising district residents of the status of contract negotiations," school board members said in a joint news release. The board looks forward to continuing good-faith collective negotiations with the teachers and support staff.
Illinois Federation of Teachers spokesman Kenzo Shibata said the union is disappointed the board chose to initiate the posting process, which is seen as the last step required before a strike can occur.
The teachers have bargained in good faith for proposals that are fair and do not require a new property tax structure, he said. We are disappointed that the board would insinuate otherwise. We will comply with the law and prepare a copy of our latest contract proposal, which is fair and affordable.
The most recent federal mediation session between the union and members of the school board was held on Feb. 19. Prior to the meeting, teachers and staff members picketed just as they did before the school board meeting on Feb. 10.
District 104 Superintendent John Bute said negotiations are ongoing and the next mediation sessions are scheduled for March 12 and 13. But he added, That does not mean the board is not willing to meet before that.
The board will continue to negotiate a fair contract, he said. We hope to get it done as soon as possible. Bute said there are multiple sticking points in the negotiation process.
Money is always an issue when you are doing labor negotiations, he said, while noting the school board is offering a three-year contract with a wage increase that adheres to its goal of reaching an agreement within the current property tax structure, so that the board does not need to seek additional revenue through a referendum.
He then explained, When you are looking at money, in the first year we would be providing new money for a contract. Then during the second year we would be providing some more new money in addition to the first year. So as things compound on themselves we can have a settlement that looks like is 3, 4 or 5 percent but that can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in new money.
We we dont have millions of dollars sitting in a bank account. We are not at a point where we are in trouble financially but we also know the money we have in reserve is for a rainy day fund. We do have several hundred thousand dollars for when we have expenses that come up. For example, if a roof needs to be replaced or, as happened last year when we needed to purchase new computers for the middle schools 1:1 program because our computers were falling apart. Those are the kinds of things you do out of reserves.
Bute also noted the contracts language must be revised to include support staff members, who joined the union last year.
A majority of the items still on the table are related to language and we have a variety of language issues, he said. Last year, our non-certified employees the secretaries, custodian and paraprofessionals joined the union so we have to craft some language to outline wages, duties and benefits for those folks and we have a lot of issues to hash out and finalize there.
No one wants a strike. The board does not want a strike. We want resolution, Bute then said. But contract negotiation is not an easy process. It is adversarial in its nature. Its complicated. Its filled with emotions and political wrangling. In the end, we will come up with an agreement that both parties hopefully will be able to live with.
Negotiations for a new contract began in July. The teachers have been working without a contract since August.
The teachers filed an intent to strike notice with educational labor relations board and St. Clair County Regional Superintendent Susan Sarfaty on February 3. The reasons they listed were working conditions, wages and benefits, according to Sarfaty.
In order for a strike to occur, the teachers and district now must first participate in the public posting process and they must file with the IELRB the final, best offers each side has put forth.
The IELRB then has seven days to post the numbers on its web site http://www2.illinois.gov/elrb. The offers must be displayed for public viewing for 15 days before a strike may take place.
A new contract would impact 44 teachers and 26 support staff.
Central Dist. 104 consists of Central Elementary School and Joseph Arthur Middle School. It serves about 585 students.
(Jamie Forsythe of the Belleville News Democrat contributed to this article.)