School Board, union set to discuss contract Monday

Quincy School Board President Sayeed Ali and Quincy Federation Co-president Jen Drew.
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 8, 2017 6:35 pm Updated: Nov. 8, 2017 7:03 pm

QUINCY -- The Quincy School Board and the Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel plan to sit down Monday night in hopes of averting a strike.

The two sides last met Oct. 16. QF rejected a final contract offer two days later and voted to file notice of its intent to strike.

School Board President Sayeed Ali considers Monday's meeting, scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. in the School Board office, a positive sign.

"The two sides not meeting would absolutely be a negative," Ali said. "And so the fact that we're sitting down for a discussion is at least a step in the right direction."

QF Co-president Jen Drew also was pleased to have a meeting scheduled.

"We are always discussing how to avoid a strike, so we will see what happens," Drew said.

Both sides had indicated a willingness to meet in hopes of reaching an agreement to prevent the first strike in the Quincy School District since 1989. Without a new contract, QF says its members will strike beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20.

A four-hour meeting three days before QF members planned to walk off the job in mid-January produced a one-year contract. That agreement, retroactive to July 1, 2016, expired June 30.

Compensation and insurance remain stumbling blocks in reaching a new agreement, which must be approved by all seven subgroups in the union.

The union seeks a two-year deal with a salary increase of 2.4 percent the first year and 2 percent the second year. The second year is about $150,000 more than the board proposed, and the cost for both years is $1.301 million, according to information filed with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

The board's offer has not changed from the original three-year deal offering a 2.4 percent increase the first year, 1.5 percent the second year and 1.7 percent the third year, or about $2.3 million in raises overall, according to information filed with the Educational Labor Relations Board.

The board also agreed to pay $7.983 million of the projected $9.671 million in total cost of health insurance premiums for union members in 2017-18.

QF and the School Board announced a tentative agreement July 11 on a three-year deal. But the contract was rejected when one of the union's seven subgroups voted it down, a surprise to leadership on both sides.

Three meetings with federal mediator John Weathers did little to bring both sides closer to a new contract. Contract talks headed to mediation in mid-August after QF members rejected a second three-year contract proposal.

In the last union vote Oct. 18, five out of the seven subgroups voted against the contract proposal, and two-thirds of the total membership voted to file notice of the union's intent to strike.

The second proposal made two small changes to contract language, one dealing with the spouse portion of the health insurance and another making the third year an option year, meaning the contract could be reopened if district finances significantly change.