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updated: 11/7/2017 10:41 PM

District 15 support staff still without a contract

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By Sarah Zoellick
Daily Herald correspondent

A mediation session held Tuesday evening between Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and the Educational Support Personnel Association did not go as officials expected, and a negotiation session scheduled for Wednesday afternoon has been canceled.

District 15 Board of Education President Lisa Szczupaj said in a statement addressed to the District 15 community that the ESPA "was not prepared to present a detailed counterproposal necessary to move negotiations forward."

Szczupaj said the ESPA requested detailed financial information regarding 16 items two hours before Tuesday's meeting, and that the union local indicated it would not submit a counterproposal until it receives that information.

Bridget Shanahan, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Education Association, said the ESPA began asking for those documents in late June and only renewed its request before the meeting.

The union was prepared to present a counterproposal at Tuesday's meeting had that information been provided, Shanahan said. She said that offer will be released to the public when ESPA formally proposes it to the board.

Shanahan said district officials either don't have financial documents to explain how they're arriving at their offers or are choosing not to provide them.

"In either case it's unacceptable and unprofessional," she said, explaining that "it's the main reason that contract negotiations are not moving forward; we're not on the same financial common ground."

Szczupaj said the district's administration will prepare the requested information "as quickly as possible" and reschedule the next bargaining session when it receives a counterproposal from the ESPA.

Discussions over a new agreement began back in February, and employees such as secretaries, clerical employees, nurses and classroom aides have been without a contract since July 1.

Hundreds went on strike for two weeks last month, but returned to work Oct. 30 without a new deal in place.

Support employees went back to work after the ESPA rejected the district's "best, last" offer presented during a bargaining session Friday, Oct. 27, and district officials said they would begin replacing employees who didn't return to work the following Monday.

In part, that offer from the district included a five-year contract with 2 percent annual raises and a $9,000-per-employee retirement benefit until 2019.

The Illinois Education Association-affiliated union local has been seeking a 2.5 percent annual wage increase over five years for its members, many of whom the union says make between $11 and $13 an hour.

Meanwhile, the IEA has filed multiple unfair labor practice complaints with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on behalf of the union local, one of which alleges the district is engaging in bad faith bargaining by regressively bargaining; failing to provide information to the union; delaying in providing information; and dealing directly with members about terms and conditions of employment. Another accusation is that employees paid in advance for health benefits the district halted during the strike.

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