QUINCY — The Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel plans to walk off the job on Jan. 17 after marathon talks on Tuesday night failed to reach a contract agreement with the Quincy School Board.
The two sides came to terms on contract language, but still remain too far apart on compensation. Both sides say they will continue to review proposals, but no meetings have been set to avert the first strike since 1989.
“I guess if the board decided to come back with a more reasonable offer to take to our members, of course we would consider staying in school on that date until we could take a vote,” QF spokesperson Jen Drew said.
“Both sides have been working really hard to try and get this resolved and not have it affect students. Unfortunately, it has reached that time where we will be walking out on the 17th.”
The School Board reviewed a new proposal for the union in a just over 90-minute closed session special meeting Tuesday morning, then presented the proposal to the union at the start of Tuesday night's negotiating session.
Drew said the School Board increased its salary offer from .81 percent of a step, or year of service, to a full step, “but that's not what our members are looking for, nor do we think that's what they can afford.”
School Board President Sayeed Ali said the proposal “offered what we felt we could offer without putting ourselves in jeopardy of going immediately into deficit spending.” He acknowledged a “huge difference” between what the district would like to offer its employees and what it's able to offer.
“On our side, I don't think there is much wiggle room,” Ali said. “We went through these numbers, and I would say that we're trying to operate on a razor-thin margin right now.
“(A strike) is probably the last thing anybody wanted to happen, but it looks like that's the direction we're heading,”
After the 45-minute presentation Tuesday night, the union caucused for several hours to review the proposal with the board's negotiating team on hand to answer any questions.
The School Board reconvened its special meeting and spent nearly two hours in closed session before adjourning at 10:20 p.m. without taking any action. The negotiating session ended at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Superintendent Roy Webb said federal mediator Theresa Phillips was at the meeting and will continue to work with both sides.
Negotiations began in July between the board and the new union covering 850 teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, food service employees, transportation employees and secretaries.
QF filed a public posting request with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Dec. 13, then announced Dec. 16 that an “overwhelming majority” of the union voted to strike in mid-January if a new one-year contract is not reached.
Webb said the district is moving forward with plans for a strike. He said the planning process will involve working with administrators and community members to put measures in place.
The School Board will hold a special meeting at noon Friday to review those plans.
Drew said union members will meet Wednesday night at the Illinois Federation of Teachers office, 255 S. 36th.
In addition, the union will host an invitation-only open house from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the IFT office for community organizations interested in either working with the federation if a strike occurs or hearing more information.