Niles teachers receive board’s final offerPublished 4:34pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012
The Niles Community Schools district gave its last best contract offer to the teachers’ union in December.
That offer is now available for all to see on the school district’s website.
“We wanted to make sure that we are transparent in our communication, and we wanted to put it out there so anyone that wants to look at it can look at it,” said Dana Daniels, who sits on the Niles school board.
The school district’s lead negotiator, Eric Delaporte, said the last best offer typically comes after mediation fails and before fact finding. It also serves as a way to break an impasse, or when both sides aren’t budging from their stance.
Both sides have met 22 times since January 2011 in an attempt to negotiate a new teachers’ contract. A mediator couldn’t settle things, so the parties are entering fact finding.
At the end of fact finding — which can take months to complete — both sides will have a minimum of 60 days to reach an agreement. If they are still at an impasse at that time, the school board has the right to impose the last best offer on the teachers’ union.
“If both parties have hardened and there is no give, rather than go on forever it is the employer’s right to go on with their business and they can take action to maintain the business,” Delaporte said.
Imposing the last best offer wouldn’t end negotiations, however. Both sides would have to continue to negotiate a new contract.
According to the terms of the last best offer, teachers would receive a 7 percent decrease in pay. However, the last best offer also states that teachers would receive an additional half-percent cut in pay for every month they hold out. The contract was proposed in December, so the pay cut for teachers has already increased to 8 percent.
That number would continue to rise on the first day of every month.
“If it takes two months to do fact finding and two more for negotiations, where are you at?” Daniels said. “Now from 8 percent it has gone to 10 percent. It starts getting brutal, and I don’t think anybody wants that. I don’t certainly.”
Teachers’ union president Kathy Elsner said the union continues to hold out in the belief both sides can come to an agreement better than the one proposed in the board’s last best offer.
“We think there is still room to come to some common ground and agreement in negotiations, and we welcome the board back to the table even through this process,” she said. “With negotiations, there is give and take, and that is what we are hoping and expecting.”
Both sides have shown the ability to agree on some issues. According to the last best offer posted on the district’s website, six of the 11 articles in the contract have already been tentatively agreed upon.
Delaporte said the school district loses $215,000 in projected savings for every month that goes by without a new contract. The district is able to recapture about $60,000 of that loss by increasing the pay cut for teachers by a half percent each month, Delaporte added.
The school board is projecting the district will go into deficit sometime during the 2013-14 school year, if everything stays the same.
Elsner does not fully agree with the board’s projections.
“Obviously, we don’t want to take any steps that would make the board end up in deficit,” she said, “but we are looking at our own projections on the income for the school and that is the area we don’t agree with right now.”
The last best offer can be viewed by visiting the district’s website and clicking on the link titled “union contract negotiations.”