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Arbitration may be in store for Janesville teachers contract

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 26, 2010
— Prospects don’t look good for a new contract for Janesville public school teachers before they return to work Aug. 27.

“The teachers are exploring possible ways to settle the contract in other ways going forward” co-lead negotiator Jim Reif said Friday.


Reif confirmed that could mean arbitration, but he said he could not comment further without consulting with the union leadership.


The approximately 840 teachers worked all of last school year under the terms of their old contract.


The two sides last met June 26. That was the first and only time they met with a state mediator. No further mediation sessions were scheduled.


Arbitration of the contract could take months, as teachers and officials in neighboring Milton School District know full well.


The Milton School District filed for arbitration in January. No decision is expected before October.


The Milton contract dispute appears to be centered on health insurance and its costs. It’s hard to say what issues are holding up the Janesville contract talks.


Negotiators for both sides have said almost nothing about the substance of their talks since negotiations opened May 19, 2009.


The school board’s opening offer was a wage freeze for 2009-10 and a 1.34 percent increase in 2010-11.


The teachers have offered a list of changes to working conditions that they say would help the district attract and retain quality teachers. Spokespersons for the union have said that’s the union’s primary objective.


The arbitration process leads to each side making a final offer. Then, an arbitrator chooses one offer over the other. The arbitrator may not make changes to the offer chosen.


Some experts in the field have predicted more teachers contracts would go to arbitration this year than in the recent past because of changes to the rules passed by state lawmakers.


The first day of school in Janesville is Wednesday, Sept. 1.



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