Late last week, District 15 and the District 15 Transportation Union (DTU) sent out back-to-back statements, respectively, relating to the status of contract negotiations to possibly keep busing for D15 students in-house. Simultaneously, D15 also is considering outsourcing the service.
Information on this subject, subsequently received in the last several days by Palatine Patch, causes the situation to remain somewhat, unclear.
What is verifiable is that on Monday, February 25, initial negotiations were held between D15 and the DTU. A proposal was given to DTU by D15, which was to be followed up on at a meeting on Wednesday, February 27.
On February 27, the DTU came back and asked about a number of provisions in the previous contact that had been eliminated or stricken by D15. When that question was asked, according to members and negotiators for the DTU, the continual response from D15 was that a counter-offer was needed, with no explanation provided as to what was wrong with the previous contract and/or how it could be fixed.
“We asked ourselves, how we could provide a counter-offer on something we didn’t have a solid understanding of-and when we asked what was wrong with the previous contract, we were continually asked to provide a counter-offer and offered no further details,” said Carin Ulrich, DTU president.
Meanwhile, Tim Millar, District 15 school board president, said the negotiating team was expecting a counter-offer, as is presumed in normal contract negotiations, to be presented with a first offer from the DTU, but no response was given.
“They said they had no counter offer and weren’t going to present a counter,” Millar said.
That circumstance was explained differently by Amy Kunz, Illinois Education Association-UniServ director who handles negotiations for the DTU.
“This whole experience was entirely shocking, regarding the sheer scope of what had been eliminated from our previous agreement, 90 percent of it was gone,” said Kunz. “On Wednesday, we went back, asking the district if they could tell us the story, where the frustrations were, events that had happened.”
“The district didn’t come forward with any explanation. Their response was, we need your counter-offer,” she said.
Another circumstance at the Wednesday meeting related to two pre-scheduled meeting dates to continue negotiations, one on Monday, March 4 and the second on Friday, March 8.
“[The] DTU had declined to meet and honor [meeting] dates in March, they cancelled future negotiations and said they won’t meet until mid-April,” Millar said. “We are at a loss as to why.”
Ulrich said the DTU explained to the D15 negotiating team they needed more time to craft new language for a counter-offer, and to go back to their union membership. She added that everyone at the meeting got out their calendars out and agreed on four dates in April, including April 16, 18, 23 and 30 to continue the negotiations.
Bids that are simultaneously being sought by , have not yet been provided to the DTU, according to Ulrich.
“We told District 15 we needed time to review the new bids and they were unable to let us know when the information would be available, but said they would get it to us,” Ulrich said. “That was understood.”
A final sticking point is the timeline viewed by both parties on when Reduction in Force (RIF) notices must be sent out to employees who provide transportation services if an agreement is not met.
“We have to send out notices by law to employees on whether or not they will have a job next year. We are hoping to avoid uncertaintly, and to have a contract negotiated by March,” Millar said.
Kunz said the dates on when employees are required to be notified are not as steadfast as the school district believes they need to be.
“The school district will be issuing RIF notices on April 1. The law says that if you are going to be outsourcing a group of employees, you have to give them 90 days,” Kunz said.
“They don’t have to use July 1 as that date, that date is a moving date. To say they’re going to RIF, it tells us that the school district is planning to outsource,” she said.
What the two sides do agree upon is that safety is a top priority for District 15 school children who utilize the bus services.
“This is about keeping our community safe, the safety of our children. Communication is the best answer,” Ulrich said.
“The obstacle is how to improve safety, that is where we are confused, we should have some common interest, but we are not able to have that discussion, they (DTU) are telling us they are not prepared to talk about the language in the contract to increase safety,” Millar said.
As stated, there are four dates scheduled in April between the two parties to meet again. In the meantime, the DTU plans to meet internally this month to try and formulate the counter-offer District 15 is asking for, according to Kunz.
Meanwhile, parents of District 15 students will have to wait and see whether or not busing will continue to be provided in-house, or if negotiations will break down to the point that outsourcing becomes the only choice for the school district.
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