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Milton School Board says 'No' to contract talks with teachers union

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
March 5, 2011
— The Milton School Board’s negotiation committee has told the Milton teachers union it is not interested in entering into labor contract talks before it learns the effect Gov. Scott Walker’s pending state budget and budget-repair bill could have on the district.

The decision came, apparently, without a vote, by the board’s negotiation committee, and was released in a memo to the union sent Thursday by Superintendent Bernie Nikolay.


Acting as a liaison for the negotiations committee, Nikolay wrote that “the school board is concerned about entering into an agreement that would create a commitment to certain salaries and benefits for another two years,” and wrote that “as a result, the board’s negotiation team must reluctantly reject the offer of settlement.”


The notification followed a request by the teachers union Wednesday that the district reopen the teachers’ current contract and begin negotiating an extension through 2014.


Along with the request, the union submitted a proposed settlement, which offered concessions on insurance and pension benefits, said Milton teachers union President Michael Dorn.


The union had asked the board to enter contract talks in a bid to outpace Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill, locking in a three-year labor deal before legislators could vote on the bill.


Dorn said the union was “disappointed,” with the decision and said he contacted the board Thursday night, asking it to reconsider the union’s settlement request.


“We’re hopeful that they’ll change their mind and come to the table,” Dorn said, although he said as of Friday night, he had gotten no response.


Wilson Leong, a board and negotiation committee member, said the committee had not planned to vote or to make a recommendation to the full board on Wednesday.


He said the committee decided not to act on the union’s request, calling it a “non-decision.”


Board member Al Roehl, who is not a member of the negotiations committee but who was at the committee meeting Wednesday, said the committee received the union’s proposal and adjourned without discussion, and, he said, without making any real decision on the union’s request.


“It’s still under advisement,” Roehl said Friday afternoon.


Board member Bob Cullen also was at the meeting, creating a school board a quorum—a possibility that had been highlighted in advance in a posted agenda.


Board President Rob Roy and board member Jon Cruzan were not at the meeting.


Although the negotiations committee apparently was not prepared Wednesday to vote on the union’s request, Leong said that having a board quorum at the meeting would have legally prohibited the committee from voting anyway.


Leong said he was unaware whether a full board quorum had developed during past negotiations committee meetings.


Roehl said he had attended just to hear the proposal.


Mike Pierce, the board’s labor negotiations committee chairman, could not be reached by the Gazette.


Betsy Lubke, who is a member of the board and the negotiations committee, said the committee decided it would not make a recommendation to the board to move forward with labor talks because it had incomplete information about what pending state budget cuts or the budget-repair bill could mean for the district.


She said no vote was taken Wednesday.


“There was just a consensus of the board that that’s where we were at the time,” she said. “It was just a consensus that really we could take no action until we had gotten more information.”



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