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District U-46 approves new DUEA union pact

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved a four-year contract with the District U-46 Educational Assistants (DUEA) union at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 20.
  The vote was 5-1 with board member Jeanette Ward voting no and board member Phil Costello was absent. DUEA represents primarily paraeducators while also representing sign language interpreters (SLI) and home school liaisons.
  Jeff King, chief operating officer, said there were “several language changes” including “no retro pay for fiscal year 18,” an average wage increase of “approximately 3 percent per employee per year,” a retirement clause sunset “over the term of the contract” and increasing the health insurance contribution to 15 percent over the contract’s term.
  “I believe it improves our ability to provide customer service by changing some of the work year for key employees in that group and also makes changes to when employees can take their lunch and breaks so they cannot do it at the beginning or the end of the day,” King added.
  The wage increases are up from a 2.75 percent increase in Fiscal Year 2017, and DUEA members already were paid higher and received larger raises than their counterparts in neighboring districts.
  The 15 percent employee share towards health insurance is under the national average for private sector workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report on employee benefits from March 2017 showed that private sector employees on average pay a 21 percent share for single coverage and a 33 percent share for family coverage.
  Ward did thank the parties involved in the negotiation process for “the long hours that were spent” and noted the administration followed the board majority’s wishes, but she opposed several aspects of the contract.
  “This contract provides that raises are automatic and only require that an employee be rated as proficient in order to receive a raise in 2021 and beyond,” Ward said. “I do appreciate that that was included. That’s a step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t go far enough for me.”
  Ward added: “It’s very rare in the private sector to receive guaranteed raises not based on performance. Currently, pay for DUEA members is $0.46 to $3.49 per hour higher than the average for surrounding districts, depending on employee level, and this contract increases that.”
  In July, the board approved by a 5-2 vote (Costello and Ward voting no) a new District U-46 Secretarial Association (DUSA) union contract with a lot of similar changes to the DUEA contract including the proficiency standard for receiving a raise.
  Ward noted another similarity to the DUSA contract which is allowing DUEA members to retire at 55 and allowing for bonuses “to be paid in the last four months of employment 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” to the district.
  That retirement clause does sunset by 2021 which Ward called a “great step,” but “it doesn’t go far enough for me.”
  “Given that the state currently has a $129 billion unfunded pension liability, I don’t think that pension spiking should be permitted at all,” Ward said. “This contract is not on par with the private sector, and agreements like this I think perpetuate Illinois’ fiscal problems.”


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