District 15, support workers stalled over contract length
Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and a union representing secretaries, program assistants, nurses and other support employees are squabbling over contract negotiations.
District 15 and the Educational Support Personnel Association union each have submitted what are loosely termed "final offers" to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, as required by state law. About 435 workers, whose collectively bargained contract expired June 30, are represented by the branch of the Illinois Education Association.
In dispute is the length of contract the union wants for its members. It wants a five-year contract, according to the union's final proposal sent to the state. Most workers would receive an average 3 percent raise in the first year, with all getting 3 percent annual hikes in the second year and beyond.
But District 15 states in its last-offer documents the union wants a 10-year deal that would result in about a 44 percent increase in wages over the term.
Documents show District 15's final offer is for a roughly 6 percent pay hike spread over four years for all support workers, with additional income for specific groups such as nurses, secretaries and special education program assistants.
Amy Kunz, a representative from the Illinois Education Association's Palatine office, said the union never has asked for a 10-year deal. She said union negotiators have attempted to go over cost projections for contracts running one to 10 years.
"I would say that is a gross misinterpretation of the facts," Kunz said.
School board President Lisa Szczupaj responded that the union consistently has sought a 10-year contract in negotiations but moved to five years only in the public document submitted with the state Thursday.
Another District 15 school board unanimously approved a 10-year teachers contract in April 2016, which triggered criticism from residents.
Szczupaj said she's hopeful the Educational Support Personnel Association and the district will come together to strike a deal.
"We greatly value the work of our support staff who are members of the (union)," she said. "They are an integral part of our team, and are a core component to District 15's success. We firmly believe there is room on both sides to negotiate a contract that is favorable to all parties."
Union officials wrote in the documents submitted to the state that their members may not be the most highly paid employees at District 15, but they are professionals whose work matters.
"We are proud of what we do for District 15 schools and our children," the union said.