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updated: 3/3/2014 5:55 PM

Waukegan teachers ready to strike April 16

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  • Mike McGue

      Mike McGue

 
 

Waukegan Unit District 60 teachers plan walk off the job next month if they don't receive a new contract.

About 17,000 students in prekindergarten through high school would be idled if the instructors strike April 16, a date set Monday by the union negotiating team, Lake County Federation of Teachers President Mike McGue said.

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District 60 is Lake County's largest school system. It has 1,063 unionized teachers, most of whom voted last month to allow bargaining leaders to call a strike if deemed necessary.

McGue did not elaborate on the decision to set the April strike date.

District 60 spokesman Nicholas Alajakis said the sides last met Feb. 27 and no further negotiations are planned. He issued a statement regarding the possibility of a teacher walkout April 16.

"This extra time will hopefully allow for further discussion and negotiations," Alajakis said. "It is certainly the desire of the board to find fair resolution. A strike won't benefit anyone, and it will definitely be a detriment to our students."

District 60 and the union differ on whether a strike may occur before June 30 because a contract is in place. Alajakis said a section of the deal supports the district's contention the instructors can't strike during the current academic year.

"The union and the members of the bargaining unit hereby agree not to strike or engage in or support or encourage any concerted refusal to render full and complete services in the district during the life of the agreement," the documents states.

However, McGue has said the union received a legal opinion that the teachers are permitted to strike before the 2013-14 school season ends.

Because an impasse was declared Feb. 4, both sides have submitted final offers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Negotiations between the sides started about a year ago for what the union contends was supposed to be a salary "reopener" for the 2013-14 contract, but instead has been focused on health coverage.

District 60 contends in documents filed with the state it no longer can afford to pay 100 percent of monthly premiums for union members' single health care coverage. Instructors with dependent health care cover a portion of the cost.

In its final offer, District 60 requests every teacher with single insurance contribute $10 for each of 24 paychecks. The instructors also would contribute 50 percent toward any annual health care increase, which would have ranged from $222 to $297 depending on coverage in 2013-14.

Teachers would get a 2.3 percent base salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2013, under the Waukegan school system's proposal.

Part of the union proposal seeks 5 percent longevity raises for all instructors, no cost sharing for single health insurance and sharing 50 percent of annual cost hikes for dependent care.

Documents filed by the union say teachers agreed to a salary freeze and other concessions that led to a $33 million working cash surplus for District 60.

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