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Split U-46 vote ratifies new DUSA union pact

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved of a new contract with the district’s secretarial union, District U-46 Secretarial Association (DUSA), with a split vote on Monday, July 23.
  The contract was approved 5-2, board members Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voting no.
  Jeff King, chief operating officer, described some of the changes to the contract. The contract was not publicly available the night of the vote.
  “The contract that we’re proposing is a five-year agreement with DUSA,” King said. “Over the term of the contract, the health insurance employee contribution will move from 10 percent to 15 percent.”
  The 15 percent employee share is under the national average for private sector workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report on employee benefits from March of 2017 showed that private sector employees on average pay a 21 percent share for single coverage and a 33 percent share for family coverage.
  In regards to wages, King said there is a form of merit-based pay raises within the new contract.
  “The increases range from 3 percent to 3.25 percent, again over the term of the contract,” King said. “Pay increases will be tied to evaluations. The contract eliminates comp time, sunsets the retirement clause and moves to combine part-time secretarial staff with clerical at the elementary and middle school levels, changes the compensation for extra duty along with other numerous language modifications.”
  Ward thanked the district and union for the time put in during the negotiations and “I understand and fully appreciate that” the agreement comes through the direction of the majority of the board, but she took issues with aspects of the contract.
  “In the private sector, guaranteed year-on-year raises not tied to merit are rare,” Ward said. “I do appreciate that this contract includes language that to obtain a raise an employee must be rated as proficient, and if an employee is rated at less than proficient, no raise will be given…. In the future, I would like to see tiers based on performance so that not all employees receive the same raise if they are merely proficient.”
  Employees hired before 2019 will be allowed to retire at 55 and receive bonuses in the last four months of employment, according to Ward, in an “amount sufficient to increase an employee’s (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) earnings in the final 12 months of employment by exactly 6 [percent] so as to be just below the amount that would incur penalties.”
  “I don’t think pension spiking should be permitted at all,” Ward said.
  Ward said DUSA employees will be able to retain health insurance in retirement at half of the single coverage rate for five years or until Medicare eligible.
  “Such sweetheart deals are not on par with the private sector, and agreements like this perpetuate the fiscal problems that Illinois is experiencing,” Ward said.
  Ward also noted that the “top rate of pay for level A, B and C employees is $2 to $9 an hour higher than the average for surrounding districts.”
  Costello said there were “a lot of good things” in this contract and there are “great people” in DUSA, but “they need to be held accountable.” He concurred with much of what Ward stated as her reason for opposition.
  “I saw the diligence of both the union and certainly the district in trying to come up with an effective bargaining tool, but at the end of the day there’s just a little bit too much looseness in the way we approach this and I want more attention paid to the process that we give increases,” Costello said.
  Costello said there is a clause in the contract stating that some DUSA employees are not evaluated, and “if they’re not given evaluations they’re presumed to be sufficient” meaning an automatic pay increase will be given. He said because of that provision “we’re not getting the best out of the employee, and the employee is being given a pass on being given a raise.”





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