UPDATED: Champaign teachers union in fight with district over Dr. Howard move

UPDATED: Champaign teachers union in fight with district over Dr. Howard move

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign Federation of Teachers filed an unfair-labor-practice charge against the Unit 4 school district Thursday over what it said is the district’s refusal to negotiate compensation for Dr. Howard Elementary teachers who have been packing up their classrooms ahead of a move to a new location.

The district, however, believes this matter was settled years ago.

Jen White, president of the teachers union, said the district refused to negotiate compensation for those teachers, who will spend the next two school years at the Columbia Center while Dr. Howard is torn down and rebuilt. Prior to the move this summer, White said teachers spent time packing, unsure if and how the district would compensate them.

“Teachers are expected to do all of the packing to get their stuff ready to be moved and then do the unpacking with the move complete,” White told The News-Gazette. 

The complaint is based on the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, which “specifically requires educational employers to bargain the impacts of any changes in working conditions,” according to the union.

“The district is refusing to bargain,” White said. “They’ve basically said ‘Our way or the highway.’”

On Thursday night, district officials pointed to an April 2013 memorandum of agreement between Unit 4 and the union (PDF link at top), following the announcement that Carrie Busey Elementary would relocate from Kirby Avenue to a building in Savoy. District officials say both sides agreed at that time that certified staff members would be paid $30 per hour for up to seven hours on a designated “packing day” — both before and after the move. 

Or, staff that qualified could choose to take up to two professional-leave days. 

“The district is disappointed by the union’s claim that we are refusing to bargain,” Unit 4 said in Thursday’s statement. “Since the agreement was bargained and signed in 2013, a number of building moves have occurred — Bottenfield, Kenwood and Robeson, as well as some specific programs — and the district has always honored the agreed-upon terms.” 

The district also offered to handle packing and unpacking for Dr. Howard teachers, it said. 

“We have also shared that Operations and Maintenance staff is willing to relocate any teachers who do not wish to take advantage of these extra paid days,” the district said. “To specifically ease the burden on teachers at Dr. Howard, the Operations and Maintenance team was on site this afternoon to build boxes, move heavy objects and box up items. They will be present again” today, the last day of school.

District officials said they have met regularly with the teachers union to discuss issues related to moving, which led to their “being confused by the course of action CFT has chosen.” 

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