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updated: 10/16/2012 12:50 AM

U-46, education assistants reach deal

Transportation union talks continue

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Education assistants in Elgin Area School District U-46 and the district school board have reached an agreement on a four-year contract, while the district's transportation union is headed back to the negotiating table to iron out a few language issues in a tentative agreement.

The school board on Monday approved the 2011-2015 contract with the District U-46 Education Assistants union, DUEA, which includes 400 paraprofessionals in general education, special education, English Language Learners, early childhood education, library paraprofessionals, sign language interpreters and bilingual administrative liaisons, formerly home-school liaisons.

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District Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said the contract provides for additional professional development, modified health insurance and retirement benefits, modified language related to reductions in force and callbacks.

Under the new contract, the salary schedule has been eliminated. Sanders said the hourly rates will remain the same for existing employees, who will see a 46-cents-per-hour raise in the 2012-2013 school year and half of the Consumer Price Index for the remaining two years. Education assistants took a pay freeze in the 2011-2012 school year. Starting hourly rates for new employees were decreased.

The pay increase in the second year of the contract will cost the district about $160,000.

In addition, changes were made to health care benefits. Current members are grandfathered in, but new employees who work less than 30 hours are ineligible for health benefits, Sanders said.

DUEA President Karen Westerman said the two sides engaged in bargaining for 17 months, starting in April 2011.

"Insurance and compensation are big issues in all unions," Westerman said.

Meanwhile, the District U-46 Transportation Union will return to the negotiating table to iron out remaining language issues in a tentative agreement.

"We have a tentative agreement on most of the things that we have worked on," Moseman said. "There is some disagreement on wording that we need to work out. Hopefully the federal mediator will help us come to that agreement again."

In a memo last week to union members, transportation union leaders said existing issues already agreed upon will not be changed.

Those items include hours of work, extra work assignments, retirement incentives, and health and life insurance benefits.

The transportation union leadership will meet with members at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Elgin High School.

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