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Union leader: No concessions yet from Janesville teachers

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 30, 2011
— A new law that allows the Janesville teachers union to make concessions in its contract is now law, but don’t expect action soon.

“Nothing is going to happen this summer,” teachers union President Dave Parr said Wednesday.


Rep. Joe Knilans, R-Janesville, introduced the measure, which was passed with the rest of the state budget. It allows unions that had contracts in place before the budget-repair bill was introduced last winter to reopen their contracts, only to make concessions on pension and health insurance.


Many public-employee unions have been forced to make concessions, but local-government workers with contracts in place are shielded from the law until contracts run out.


Local governments, meanwhile, are told that they should make up losses of state aid by requiring employees to pay more for their pensions and health insurance.


The Janesville Education Association declined previous requests to get it to negotiate those concessions, saying that any opening of the contract would trigger Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, voiding the contract and all its protections, Parr has said.


Knilans’ measure promises to protect the contracts while allowing unions to negotiate concessions. No other parts of the contract could be changed.


Knilans told WCLO Radio on Wednesday that it would be irresponsible to ignore the measure if it could save jobs and children’s classes that otherwise would be cut.


Janesville School Board President Bill Sodemann was enthusiastic at the prospect of negotiating concessions.


“Obviously we’d be delighted to talk,” Sodemann said. “We’re anxiously waiting. If they have any desire, we’re there.”


Parr said he would not act unless the membership tells him to do so, but the union traditionally does not hold meetings during summers.


Parr said the legislation gives a 90-day window, so the issue can wait until the first membership meeting in late August, and concessions would help the district balance the 2012-13 budget.


Parr said he feels no urgency to act now, because he doesn’t expect the district would change its plans and hire back teachers for the coming school year, and he said the district has never promised it would reinstate jobs.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said, however, that she’d hire librarians, counselors and “academic learning coaches” now if she had the money.


Parr said because of callbacks and retirements, few teachers actually lost jobs. But district personnel director Steve Sperry estimated that about 60 JEA members lost their jobs with the district.



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