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updated: 1/10/2013 11:56 AM

No deal, but no strike date in West Chicago District 33

Both sides say they've made new offers but they're not close to agreeing

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No strike date was set by teachers in West Chicago District 33 after more than four hours of negotiations between the teachers union and the school board broke off without an agreement Wednesday night.

Both the union and the board said they made new offers Wednesday in an attempt to compromise on health insurance, which both sides have identified as a major sticking point in 16 months of negotiations.

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Before the board and the teachers union began meeting at 5 p.m., the final offers made by each side differed by $3.5 million over the proposed three-year contract. A possible strike has been looming since the union filed an intent to strike notice before the holidays.

School board secretary Dave Barclay said the board offered to delay implementation of proposed health insurance changes and remove a cap on health care costs that teachers had opposed.

Mary Catherine Kosmach, chief union negotiator, said teachers offered to pay 30 percent of health insurance premiums instead of the current contribution of 20 percent.

"In a meeting this evening (the union) offered a concession that will dramatically reduce the cost of health care benefits for District 33," Kosmach said in a statement Wednesday night. "At this point we have offered significant concessions on every one of the school board's key economic issues."

Barclay said the union's offer to increase teachers' contributions for health insurance "was not a major concession as far as we're concerned."

Both offers were rejected, and Kosmach said negotiations concluded about 9:30 p.m.

The sides were trying to settle on a health insurance plan before moving on to other key issues such as salaries, class sizes and teacher workdays. Both sides say they have suggested concessions on those points as well, but a consensus has not been reached.

Kosmach said teachers will attend a school board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the John E. Hennig Educational Service Center at 312 E. Forest Ave. in West Chicago. A union meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 16, for the bargaining group's 284 members to discuss "how severe of cuts they want to take" and next steps, Kosmach said.

The union has promised to give the board notice if teachers will strike, and the board advises parents to continue checking for automatic phone messages and emails with updates about the situation.

In the event of a strike, the district, the West Chicago Park District and the West Chicago Public Library have said they will provide some programming during the school day.

No more negotiating sessions had been scheduled as of late Wednesday night.

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