Some Janesville unions consider talks with school board

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December 11, 2011

Although they haven’t committed to reopening their contracts, two Janesville School District union groups say they are willing to enter “discussions” with the school board.

Members of the district’s secretaries, clerks and aides union, and members of the custodians, maintenance and food-service workers union, decided in a joint meeting Saturday to enter talks with the board.

The groups are both represented by AFSCME Local 938.

Jim Millard, chief steward of the custodians, maintenance and food-service workers, declined to give specific details of the union groups’ decision Saturday. He said the two bargaining units reached a “total consensus” to go into talks with the district.

“We’re agreeing to meet with the board to discuss what they want to discuss,” said Millard. “We are willing to sit down with the board and discuss possibilities.”

Donna Stenner, chief steward of the secretaries, clerks and aides said about 30 or 40 of the union’s 500 members turned out for the meeting.

Stenner said the groups have not committed to reopening their contracts, but they are willing to engage in “discussions” with the board over ways to save money.

She said the unions want to learn more about the board’s possible proposals and a new state law that lawmakers say allows public unions to reopen settled contracts to negotiate changes in health insurance and pension.

No date for the talks is set, and the union groups were not in contact with anyone on the board Saturday, Stenner and Millard said.

The two groups are separate bargaining units from the Janesville Education Association, the district’s teachers union. The teachers union is considering whether to reopen its own contract and is holding a vote on the issue at a meeting Thursday, The Gazette has reported.

The unions are exempt from a new state law that requires pension payments and higher payments for health insurance because they had a contract in place before the law went into effect.

Based on earlier proposals by the board, the talks could revolve around teachers and other district union members reopening their contracts and re-negotiating pension and health insurance benefits.

The board has asked in earlier offers this year for specific concessions to make up for a loss in state aid, but the latest offer has no specifics.

Any contract changes would require a vote by the unions and the school board.

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