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Chicago Public Schools reaches deal with Service Employees International

Jean-Claude Brizard | Sun-Times Library

Jean-Claude Brizard | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:20AM

The Chicago Public Schools system reached a contract deal with its second largest union — the Service Employees International, which represents 5,500 custodians, school bus aides, security aides and others.

But CPS and Chicago teachers, who make up its biggest union, remain far apart at the negotiating table, with teachers planning a strike authorization vote for Wednesday,

The proposed three-year contract with the SEIU includes a “reasonable wage increase” and an assurance that no more union jobs would be outsourced, said SEIU Local 73 Vice President Taalib-Din Ziyad about Sunday’s announcement.

The deal also “keeps health care costs down and maintains fair discipline language,” Ziyad said.

But nothing in the agreement specifically makes up for scheduled wage hikes that were frozen by CPS in the last year for all its unions.

SEIU is recommending that its membership ratify the proposed deal.

“Considering the circumstances at this time compared to what it was like the last contract, I think we got the best deal we could get.” Ziyad said.

Further details will not be released until union members vote on the contract later this week.

SEIU is the second of seven CPS unions to reach a contract agreement. On May 3, CPS and UNITE HERE announced a deal that gives lunchroom workers two years of 2 percent raises, freezes the expansion of warming kitchens that eliminate the need for union cooks and provides free certification courses.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the agreements offer hope for talks with other unions, including teachers.

“What the SEIU deal clearly shows is that in negotiations there’s always hope of compromise, there’s always hope of a resolution when two sides come together.”

But reaching a deal with teachers will be more challenging. Unlike the SEIU and UNITE HERE contracts, CPS has offered no job security provisions to teachers at a time when it is closing schools and opening non-union charter schools.

The union, citing a 15 to 20 percent longer school day imposed by CPS, is asking for a 30 percent raise over the next two years. CPS is offering a 2 percent raise in the first year of a five-year contract.

But Brizard argued that the scheduled strike authorization vote by teachers — which comes during an agreed upon fact finding process by an independent arbitrator — is counterproductive.

“I don’t understand the logic of this,” Brizard said. “Let the process play out. We’re still negotiating. To have educated professionals make a decision on something that is not done I think does a disservice.”

CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said the vote is necessary to put pressure on CPS.

“This is not a strike vote,” Sharkey said. “This is a shot across the bow to say start bargaining seriously or else you very well might be looking a very serious situation when school gets ready to start in the fall.”

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