Waukegan Public School teachers set strike date - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Waukegan Public School teachers set strike date

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Ten days after authorizing a strike vote, teachers in north suburban Waukegan Public School District 60 announced Monday they plan to launch a strike on April 16 unless agreement can be reached on a new contract that includes salary increases.

Michael McGue with the Lake County Federation of Teachers announced the strike date on Monday afternoon, and a district spokesman said school officials had been informed, the Lake County News-Sun is reporting.

McGue said Monday evening that while no talks are currently scheduled between the two sides, "a little bit of progress" was made at a mediated bargaining session on Thursday, Feb. 27.

"That's one of the reasons that (teachers) set the strike date off a ways, so we have time to work on this," said McGue, adding that discussions over insurance premiums have been taken off the table to focus strictly on salaries. "We're very encouraged at this point."

A statement issued Monday afternoon by District 60 officials also noted the distance between early March and mid-April, saying the intervening weeks will "hopefully lead to additional bargaining sessions. A strike isn't beneficial to anyone, and more importantly, our students and community will be negatively affected."

A reported 98 percent of the 1,200 Waukegan teachers in the union authorized a strike on Feb. 20 after an impasse was declared earlier in the month in negotiations toward a contract that expires on June 30.

Both sides posted final offers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) on Feb. 18. Under the district proposal, all teachers would receive a 2.3 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2013, but there would be no additional increases for tenure, or steps, nor for education earned beyond a bachelor's degree, known as lane movement.

The district also wanted to cease 100 percent payment of insurance premiums for single employees, calling for contributions of $10 per pay period or $240 per year. It also called for employees with dependent coverage to pay a percentage of any annual increases in premiums.

The union proposal calls for all teachers to receive a 2.25 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2013, and also allows teachers to move up salary scales related to tenure and education. Teachers with a certain amount of longevity would also receive a raise of 5 percent.

Under the union proposal, there would be no cost-sharing on health insurance premiums for single coverage, though those with dependent coverage would cover a percentage of escalating costs.

District 60 officials have disputed whether the union can strike prior to the expiration of its current three-year deal. They reiterated that point on Monday, saying "we think the legality of it is a matter of first impression for the (Illinois Education Labor Relations Board) at this point."

According to a district statement, the current contract includes a clause that the union and its members "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."

McGue said last week that union attorneys have advised that they feel a strike prior to June 30 would be legal. For now, the two sides are focused on agreeing when they will resume negotiations.

"We don't have anything set right now," said McGue, "but the mediator has asked us to get back together, and we're ready to go back to the table."

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