DALLAS TWP. — About 90 percent of the last two negotiation sessions between the Dallas School District and its union focused on health care, school board member James Gattuso said Tuesday.
And a state union leader called the health care issue “the key” to getting a new deal in place.
The Dallas Education Association and Dallas School Board met Oct. 11 and then again Monday to discuss the union’s latest health offer prepared by Millennium Healthcare Group, an independent broker. The proposal was given to the district Oct. 2, which marked the end of a teachers strike that started Sept. 22.
“We are continuing discussions on the DEA’s health care proposal,” Gattuso said. “Meetings have been very cordial.”
The 80-page proposal is based on the district’s health care claims and projects a savings of over $300,000 for the district, Michael Cherinka, union president, said earlier this month.
Teachers thus far have been reluctant to pay anything toward their insurance premiums.
Cherinka did not attend Monday’s negotiation meeting, but John Holland, of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, did and noted there is some “give and take” between the two parties.
“We are working on ways to reduce the insurance costs,” Holland said. “The key to getting the contract issue resolved is to resolve the health care issue.”
Gattuso said board members are looking to see how the health insurance program would fit into the district’s budget.
The board will hold an internal meeting Wednesday to review the new information before meeting with the union next week, Gattuso said.
“Another negotiation meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26,” Holland said.
The Dallas Education Association has worked without a valid contract since August 2015. Negotiations, which began in 2014, reached an impasse on issues of salary, health care, pensions and early retirement.
As a result, the union went on a 22-day strike in November 2016, and the remainder of the 2016-17 school year was marred by threats of a second strike.
The stalemate continued into the 2017-18 term and led to another strike that covered seven school days.
The union has set a new strike date of Nov. 22.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews