August 8, 2008

Close, but No Contract in U-46 Monday Talks Set With Transportation Union

By Kerry Lester

[email protected]

While Thursday's mediation session between Elgin Area School District U-46 officials and its transportation union did not produce a contract, it did produce a significant step toward an agreement.

"We're a whole lot closer now," said Dave Neal, Uniserv director for the union. "We're only cents apart."

The district did not budge on its "last, best and final offer" rejected by union members Feb. 2, Neal said.

The four-year deal offers a 4.4 percent across-the-board raise for the first two years of the contract, and increases tied to the rate of inflation in the third and fourth years. Those increases could be between 5.5 and 6 percent, according to district officials.

Union President Doris Cartwright called the deal "second-best compared to other U-46 administrators and employee contracts" earlier this week.

During Thursday's six-hour session, the transportation union presented the district with a counterproposal that made a significant move on its salary request, Neal said.

"We did move to a number that would be less than what other groups have been offered and settled for," he said. "We're not holding out to be the top dog."

The recently approved teachers contract, also reached after a protracted negotiation process, gives the average teacher a raise of 6.1 percent in the first year of the contract, 5.7 percent in the second year, and between 4.4 percent and 5.7 percent in the third year.

District administrators will receive 5.7 percent raises this year, according to John Prince, the district's chief financial officer.

The union also put forth Thursday a half-dozen suggestions about areas where money can be saved and redirected toward salary, Neal said. "Some of these options were contractual, others were operational. We had hoped the district would do some brainstorming, too, but if they did, they didn't share it."

Union leaders will discuss the terms of its counterproposal with its 394 members today, Neal said.

The district and the union will have a final mediation session Monday. If no agreement is reached then, the union likely will file an intent to strike notice, Cartwright said.

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