Janesville teachers request mediation in contract talks
The Janesville Education Association requested the assistance, said Jim Reif, co-lead negotiator for the JEA.
Reif would not comment on why the union decided to go this route. “That information is reserved for the JEA members,” Reif said. The first mediation was set for Thursday, June 24, but might have to be changed because of a scheduling conflict, Reif said.
School district officials did not return calls asking for comment Friday.
This will be the second straight contract in which mediation was employed. The school board requested mediation before the 2007-09 contract was settled. More than 840 Janesville teachers are working under the terms of a contract that expired nearly a year ago. The two sides have met off and on since May 20, 2009.
The union requested only mediation. It did not petition for arbitration, said JEA President Dave Parr.
Either side could file a petition for arbitration later, if mediation is unsuccessful, said Marshall Gratz, staff attorney and mediator for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
The WERC is the agency that supplies mediators and arbitrators in contract disputes involving public employee bargaining units.
The arbitration process leads to each side making a final offer and an arbitrator choosing one over the other. Mediation’s goal is to get the two sides to agree to a voluntary settlement, Gratz said.
In mediation, the mediator typically comes to the school district and meets with both sides. Both sides could be in the same room or in separate rooms with the mediator shuttling between them.
Janesville is not alone in asking for help to resolve its teacher-contract dispute. Gratz said there is “considerable activity in teacher bargains statewide that we are involved with.”
Settlements have been achieved in some cases, and others are in various stages, Gratz said.
The Milton teachers contract is the only case in the state so far that is going to an arbitrator for a final decision, a decision that will be closely watched statewide.
The last bargaining session was Wednesday. Reif said the teachers’ negotiating team is looking forward to another scheduled meeting Monday, June 21.