The Rockford School Board files a notice to end contracts with some of the support employees in the district. The food services workers and paraprofessionals, they usually serve as aides in classrooms, will be on the job without a deal.
The school district calls it a "necessary step" in the collective bargaining process. But that is not sitting well with the workers' union.
"It becomes a distraction for the parties instead of something to prompt a settlement," says Ed Sadlowski, AFSCME 31, staff representative.
The paraprofessional and food service workers have been operating without contracts since 2012. But union leaders say there was a clause in them that kept them renewed until a new agreement was in place. The recent move by the school board would end that.
"It is a collective bargaining strategy it has been difficult to get them to the table," says Dr. Robert Willis, Rockford Schools superintendent.
Dr. Willis says since it made move five bargaining sessions have been set up. But union leaders say that has not been the case. They have gone to the table numerous times but the district often cuts their sessions short. A federal mediator has now been called to the process.
For the workers, union leaders say everything will continue as normal during this process.
"Members of our unions should continue to report to work as normal during the summer months. As this negotiation progresses within these next few weeks it will progress with more intensity hopefully if the district is intent in reaching a settlement as we are we should avoid any disruption with the commencement of the school year," says Sadlowski.
"We know we are going to get a contract soon. We value our employees. We don't want to be out there with no contract," says Dr. Willis.
The contracts now officially expire July 16th. Workers wages and a wellness plan have been the sticking point in negotiations.
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