DIXON – The Dixon Education Association has requested a federal mediator to negotiate contract talks with the Dixon school board, Superintendent Michael Juenger said Thursday.
Teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 20, despite talks that began in March.
They lined the Galena Avenue bridge Thursday holding signs that said “Good teachers deserve good benefits” and “We want a fair settlement.” Teachers also gathered on the bridge for an informational picket last Thursday.
“The main message we wanted to get out is that we’re still here working without a contract and not a lot of people in the community know that,” said Dolph Ricks, lead negotiator for the Dixon Education Association and a teacher at Reagan Middle School. “You have a process that started in March and here it is December, still with no contract.”
Juenger agreed contract talks have been drawn out, but said the union has to accept responsibility for the delay.
“They told us they were not willing to bargain over the summer, so we didn’t meet in June, July or August,” Juenger said. “Had we bargained in those months, talks would be much further along.”
He added: “It took the teachers 7 months to make their first proposal regarding money.”
Ricks was at a meeting late Monday and was not able to respond to Juenger’s comments. He said earlier Monday that he would not make any statements relative to negotiations.
More talks are scheduled Dec. 17, Jan. 29 and Feb. 4.
Juenger said it’s not uncommon for teachers to work months without a contract, indicating both sides are at the initial offer/counteroffer stage.
“They still have the same protections and same benefits from the previous contract in effect,” Juenger said.
Both sides indicated a strike is far away.
“While the two sides are far apart, that is the nature of collective bargaining in Illinois,” Juenger said. “We will come to an agreement I believe once there is a desire to get serious about negotiations, then they’ll move fairly quickly.”