Despite contract negotiations ending without an agreement, Palatine Township Elementary District 15 support staff will return to work Monday after two weeks on strike, union leaders said Sunday.
The Educational Support Personnel Association rejected the district's "best, last" offer, which was presented to the union during a bargaining session Friday. District 15 officials said they would begin the process of replacing employees who didn't return to work Monday.
In a statement, ESPA leaders called the district's offer "deceptive" but said they have decided to put the students first by returning to their schools and classrooms.
"We are extremely disappointed by the board's actions, but are anxious to get back to the students that we love," ESPA President Angie Drazkowski said.
The strike started Oct. 16 with 454 members -- including secretaries, clerical workers, nurses and special ed classroom aides -- of the ESPA, which is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association.
District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson released a statement Sunday welcoming back the staff members, who he emphasized are "part of our family."
"Staff, parents and students rely on them to support the important learning occurring in our schools each day, as well as the physical and medical care many need," he said. "The district is eager to welcome these valued staff members back to work, joining us in our mission to provide an excellent and safe education to our students."
The negotiations between the support staff union and the district ended without an agreement, and no new bargaining sessions have been scheduled, IEA spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan said. Both parties said Sunday they intend to continue negotiations.
The ESPA has filed several unfair labor practice complaints against the district, Shanahan said, claiming school board members acted illegally and unethically when they abruptly ended negotiations, falsely declared an impasse and threatened staff members' jobs.
The union has been seeking a 2.5 percent annual wage hike and the continuation of a $9,000-per-employee retirement benefit.
The district's "last, best" proposal included 2 percent wage increases for five years, as well as the retirement benefit until 2019, according to information provided by District 15 spokeswoman Morgan Delack.
The district's latest offer also includes family and medical leave being extended to all full-time equivalent employees, rather than just those who qualified under federal guidelines; additional stipends and pay differentials for nurses and program assistants; and clerical staff being moved up to the program assistants' wage schedule, Delack said.
The district was previously offering a five-year contract with a 1.85 percent increase in the first two years, and 1.85 to 2.25 percent annually for the remaining three years.
Pay ranged from $11.30 an hour to $37.76 per hour, depending on the job and years of employment. The last contract also offered full benefits for working 5½ hours per day and a roughly 10 percent contribution to pension plans.
Discussions over a new agreement began in February. The employees have been without a contract since July 1.