30 Mar Madison Teachers’ Union Agrees to Wage, Benefit Concessions in New Contract (WI)

March 30, 2011

By: Matthew DeFour
Source: Wisconsin State Journal

Following a grueling collective bargaining session, the Madison School Board agreed Saturday to extend its employee union contracts through mid-2013.

Superintendent Dan Nerad said the agreement achieved all of the district’s major goals in bargaining with Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) over benefits and workplace rules. Under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Scott Walker, the district could have made those changes unilaterally, but Nerad said it was more important to i nclude employees in the decision-making process.

"If we feel we accomplished the things we needed to accomplish," Nerad said, "there was no reason to do this work outside the context of collective bargaining."

The agreement freezes wages, requires the same pension contribution as for state workers, and allows the district to require health insurance premium contributions up to 5 percent in 2011-12 and 10 percent in 2012-13. Walker has asked state employees to pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums, though other school districts have agreed on smaller amounts.

The concessions would save the district about $15.5 million next year and another $18.6 million the following year. The district is expecting Walker’s state budget proposal would reduce funding by $15.7 million next year.

For a Madison teacher earning the average salary of $55,000, the pension contribution would cost about $3,200 this year. Paying 5 percent of a health insurance premium would cost another $260 for a single premium and $700 for a family plan.

MTI executive director John Matthews declined to comment on the agreement before member ratification, which is expected Sunday afternoon.

On Friday he said the district’s initial proposal was "an embarrassment to the entire community" and "over-harsh to their employees."

The agreement includes no amnesty or pay for teachers who missed four days last month protesting Walker’s collective bargaining proposal, something MTI had requested in its initial proposal. To make up the lost time, the district will make the school day longer beginning March 21.

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The agreement did not satisfy Sarah Kidd, a conservative who ran for school board in 1993. She was upset the agreement allows MTI to continue collecting union dues automatically from employee paychecks, something Walker’s collective bargaining law prohibits, but not until existing collective bargaining agreements expire.

"What they did today does not protect the taxpayers of Madison," Kidd said.

Swift action by the Legislature and governor last week to restrict collective bargaining prompted school and union officials to enter negotiations.

The bargaining session began at 9 a.m. Friday and the final agreement was reached just after 3 a.m. Saturday.

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