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updated: 3/1/2013 1:55 PM

West Chicago High School support staffers declare impasse

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The union representing support staff employees at West Chicago High School District 94 has declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the school board, accusing the board of threatening to outsource maintenance and custodial jobs, a union official said Friday.

The impasse comes after about a year of negotiations failed to produce a contract for the union, which represents 76 employees including custodians, maintenance workers, clerks, deans' assistants, administrative assistants and personal care and program assistants.

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Monica Piszczek, spokeswoman for the Support Staff Association, said Friday the school board "released plans that they are considering outsourcing custodians and maintenance staff," leading the union to believe the board is not bargaining in good faith.

Tony Molinaro, school board spokesman, said the board held public discussions at a recent meeting directing its business manager to study outside sources for custodial and maintenance service, but no threats were made.

"We instructed our business manager to take a look and see what was feasible," Molinaro said. "That's something that would be farther into the future if at all ... There is nothing imminent whatsoever."

Both sides say salaries and health insurance remain sticking points in negotiations, which have been conducted since November with a federal mediator. The board made its latest offer Jan. 30, Molinaro said, but the union has not replied with a counteroffer.

Piszczek said salaries are the main issue because the school board is offering larger raises to employees with less experience than those who have been with the district longer, which would affect about 30 veteran employees.

"The board is just refusing to treat all the employees equally," she said.

Molinaro said the board is offering raises to all support staff employees in each year of what is proposed as a three-year contract, retroactive to July 1, 2012. He would not specify the amount of proposed raises because he said the board may adjust its offer before the deadline to submit its final proposal to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

"The agreement we've offered them includes what we think are reasonable salary increases for each of the contract years," Molinaro said. "We feel we've been able to offer some good salary increases, especially for those in the association who have lower wages."

In the past four years, support staff members have received raises totaling more than 25 percent, district officials said. They received raises of 6.2 percent in 2008-09, 6.3 percent in 2009-10, 6.4 percent in 2010-11 and 6.5 percent in 2011-12.

All those raises far outpaced the rate of inflation, officials said.

The average annual pay for all support staff members is $39,746, according to district records. Their pay ranges from $20,042 for the lowest paid special education program assistant to $86,736 for the salary and overtime of the highest paid maintenance worker.

Both sides say no more negotiating sessions are scheduled. Now that an impasse has been declared, the board and union must present their final offers to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board by March 7, Piszczek said.

If an agreement is not reached after seven days, the labor relations board will post both offers on its website; and if another 14-day period passes without a contract, the union then could strike.

Piszczek said the union has no plans to strike at this point.

Molinaro said the sides "have been close" and the board is willing to continue meeting.

"We're open if they want to get back to the table, but it's really up to them," he said. "They declared the impasse."

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