Contract negotiations with teachers loom for District 113A
For the past two years, teachers have been under a pay freeze at School District 113A. This spring, those terms could change.
As contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union loom in the spring, the question of whether it will request a lift on the pay freeze remains uncertain.
Michelle Nevin, president of the Lemont-Bromberek Council of American Federation of Teachers Local 604, said teachers in the union have yet to meet as a group to discuss terms, the pay freeze or what their priorities will be heading into the spring. The union does intend to meet in January to begin discussions, she said.
Contract negotiations are expected to begin by March 1. Nevin and District 113A Superintendent Susan Birkenmaier said the length of negotiations depends on how quickly both sides come to an agreement.
“You look at everything — the cost of wages, cost of benefits, the cost of working conditions — and all those things combined, you have to compare what you can afford with the requests,” Birkenmaier said. “There is no deadline, it’s an evolving process.”
Along with teachers, support staff — including secretaries, paraprofessionals, learning resource center assistants and technology assistants — have been on a hard pay freeze since 2011.
Birkenmaier said until the district’s administration and selected board members meet with representatives from the union, she can’t know what terms will be negotiated — including whether the union will request a termination of the pay freeze.
“I have no way to know that,” Birkenmaier said. “(We will know more) when we get to the bargaining table to be able to talk and understand the full scope of everyone’s concerns with the bargaining issues.”
Local 604 negotiated its last contract in 2011 and the terms are set to expire on June 30, 2013.
The pay freeze came just one school year after the district was placed on the Illinois State Board of Education’s financial difficulty list in December 2009. Since being placed on the list, the district has reduced staff levels, increased class sizes, closed Central School, reduced benefits, reduced transportation and eliminated extra-curricular activities, in addition to the pay freeze.
“We knew what the district was going through,” Nevin said. “The freeze was something we did to help the district as much as we could.”
The results of the districts cost-cutting measures were a total savings of about $4.7 million since 2009.
Since becoming more financially stable this past fiscal year, District 113A is looking to the future and doesn’t necessarily want to “bring things back” but wants to consider all possibilities.
“The conditions are always changing,” Birkenmaier said in October. “We are always learning new things about education, student learning and innovations in teaching. I don’t want to see this as an opportunity to pull things back from the past. We need to take into consideration all that is ahead of us and be able to build so we can meet all the expectations that are ahead of us.”
The current teachers contract
Union: Lemont-Bromberek Council of American Federation of Teachers Local 604
Contract dates: July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013
Salary: Teachers agreed to a pay freeze through the duration of the agreement.
Medical: Teachers pay $40 a month for single coverage; $110 per month for dependent coverage
Dental: Coverage paid by school district
While you’re at it...
While the district will be busy negotiating a new teachers contract this spring, it will also have to negotiate new deals with its bus drivers, custodians and clerical staff. Contracts for those unions also expire June 30, 2013.
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