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Trying to find compromise as strike looms

Black Hawk College teachers union seeking a contract after year of negotiations

Moline, Illinois -  

 

When classes resume next week at Black Hawk College after spring break, some professors might not be returning with students.

Last week, Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 1836 gave notice of to strike that would begin March 19.

The union said right now they are without a contract and have been in the negotiation process for about a year.

Tuesday, the college’s board of trustees takes a look at what to do should a strike move forward.

The college’s interim president John Erwin said employees have a right to strike, but there needs to be consequences and precautions.

Part of the meeting includes a resolution taking away pay and benefits while employees strike.

IFT Union Local 1836 Spokesperson Acie Earl said, “No way excited or enthused about a strike situation. It really is a last resort.”

Local 1836, representing about 160 staff and faculty members at Black Hawk College, said they just want a fair deal, compared to similar colleges.

Earl said Tuesday ahead of the meeting, “Since 2009, our average faculty salaries have moved from the middle of the pack to the very bottom of the pack. We’re dead last currently. At the same time, our administrators rank number one.”

Part of the difficulty for the college, they said is uncertainty with a decreased enrollment of 29 percent over the last four years and state funding.

Black Hawk College Interim President John Erwin said, “Two years ago, Black Hawk College, had about a $35 million overall budget. Eight million dollars of that budget came from the state of Illinois, as appropriated, but only one million dollars was paid.”

Both sides admit they know the college has faced difficulties but said they still have some miles to go before a compromise can be reached.

Erwin said, “Basic matter of fact, this is what can be offered, this is what they would prefer and there’s a gap, so hopefully in this next weeks, we can close that gap and move toward a successful agreement.”

The union said right now, the college board's proposed contract does not provide a salary increase and senior staff will see a pay cut.

The union said they’ve countered with a contract providing a quarter million dollars in savings, which wouldn’t come at a cost to taxpayers and increase tuition.

Earl said, “We recognize the need to give and take and so from that perspective, we think we’ve put together an offer. We certainly are willing to negotiate with the board.”

President Erwin said a deal would need to be comparable to what non-union staff are paid.

Union spokesperson Acie Earl is asking the board to hold off on their resolution Tuesday night.

The college said if the strike moves forward, classes will proceed as usual.


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