The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Split U-46 vote approves food services union pact
By Seth Hancock
The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved by a 5-2 vote, Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward voting no, on a contract for the district’s food services union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), at its meeting on Monday, April 1.
Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said it was a three-year contract with annual pay raises averaging 3 percent. He said the SEIU approved the contract two weeks prior.
Ward thanked staff and the union representatives for “the hard work of negotiating,” but she said: “This contract is not on par with the private sector and agreements like this perpetuate Illinois’ fiscal problems. I do appreciate some of the directions we’re taking, but I will be voting no.”
Some of the concerns Ward addressed were pay raises were mostly automatic and the contract allows for pension spiking in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) as well as benefits that exceed the taxpayers who will be funding the contract but work in the private sector.
“This contract was drafted with direction from the majority of the board,” Ward said. “I fully appreciate and respect that. 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.”
Regarding the proficiency standard, Ward said: “I do appreciate that that was included and that is a step in the right direction. However, it doesn't go far enough for me. It is very rare in the private sector to receive guaranteed raises not based on performance.”
After automatic pay raises of 3 percent in the first two years of the contract, employees will need to be evaluated as merely proficient to receive a 2.75 percent increase. Even employees rated less than proficient will also receive automatic pay raises of 1.375 percent.
Ward added: “Similar to other contracts this board has voted on, this contract provides that employees hired on or before June 30, 2019 may retire at 55 and then provides for a bonus to be paid in the last four months of employment in an amount sufficient to increase an employee’s IMRF earnings in the final 12 months of employment by exactly 6 percent so as to be just below the amount that would incur penalties. As I said previously, and also given that the state has currently $129 billion in unfunded pension liability, I don’t think that pension spiking should be permitted at all.”
Ward said that she appreciates that the pension spiking practice ends for new hires after June 30, 2019 saying, “that is a good and fantastic direction.”
U-46 will pay 85 percent of health care costs compared to 15 percent by the employees.
“I work for a company that offers very competitive pay and benefits, and my employer pays 75 percent of the insurance premium and I pay 25 percent,” Ward said. “And that is quite common in the private sector.”