Janesville32.3°

Milton schools offer settlement to teachers

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 30, 2010
— While the Milton School District’s 2009-11 labor contract is in arbitration because of a teacher insurance dispute, the district has released details of a separate, voluntary settlement it offered the schools’ teachers union last week.

According to district documents, the proposed settlement offers a three-year contract that would allow the teachers union to keep its current health insurance carrier for the 2010-11 school year. But under the terms of the settlement, the union would have to switch insurance carriers from the Wisconsin Education Association Trust to a Dean-Mercy plan in 2011-12, the final year of the proposed contract.


That part of the settlement matches earlier proposals by the district, which argues it would see substantial savings if the teachers union would switch health carriers.


Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said one of the major features of the settlement offer is that it’s a three-year contract.


With the district’s 2009-11 contract still pending, and an arbitration decision reportedly unlikely before October, the district and the union are on pace to immediately re-enter negotiations for a 2011-13 labor agreement.


Nikolay said the district’s proposed settlement, which blankets 2009-12, would give both the union and the district a one-year buffer before a new set of contract talks started.


“It would give everyone a little breather. Both sides wouldn’t have to go right back at (negotiations). Things could calm some,” Nikolay said.


Nikolay said the district remains confident in its proposal for arbitration, but that it still seeks a voluntary settlement. He said the teachers union has not responded to the settlement offer.


Shelly Kress, president of Milton Schools’ teachers union, said earlier the bulk of the union’s negotiation team was unavailable last week to review the proposed settlement, but that it plans to consider the offer in the first week of July.


The district has given the union until July 12 to decide on the offer, officials said.


That deadline falls just before the date by which the district and the union must file a set of legal responses in the pending labor arbitration, Nikolay said. The filings would come at an expense to both sides.


Nikolay said the district has not received invoices for last week’s arbitration hearing, and he didn’t have an estimate on how much the arbitration process has cost the district so far.


The district had filed for arbitration in January after talks for the district’s 2009-10 labor contract had broken down amid a teacher insurance dispute.


Arbitration proceedings started last Thursday in Milton, with an appointed arbitrator hearing both the union and the district’s proposed contracts.


The district argues it could see $1 million in savings if the union would switch insurance carriers. The union has argued a carrier change would mean more out-of-pocket costs for its members, and that those costs would outstrip any pay increase the district is offering.


The union continues to work under the terms of an expired contract.



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