Time running out for Eugene teacher contract solution

EUGENE, Ore. - After 12 hours of talks there was no breakthrough Wednesday and no new contract between teachers and the Eugene 4J School District.

There's just one more bargaining session on the calendar, and Tad Shannon is trying to stay optimistic.

"We're at a tipping point in education and in our district," said Shannon, the 2013 president of the Eugene Education Association.

The Eugene School Board went behind closed doors Thursday to talk over the next move in contract talks.

Shannon said his side is trying to make concessions, including 8 unpaid furlough days (up from 7); a union-paid increase for monthly health insurance premiums; and a lower cost of living raise, partially paid for by union reserves. "We would pay more than half of that .8 percent increase," Shannon said.

But management said there's more to this than health insurance and cost of living raises.

"I think the most difficult thing of this agreement is that we are trying to solve a huge budget gap," said Barb Bellamy, communications director for the district.

Eugene 4J faces an $11.6 million shortfall. The district wants to save money and as many teacher jobs as possible. To do so, district managers want 11 unpaid teacher furlough days, no cost of living raise, no insurance payment increase and a 50 percent reduction in pay increases due to seniority.

Is there room for compromise?

"I can just say that I think we're all working from the point of hoping to come to an agreement," Bellamy said.

"There's only so far that people can be pushed before they say enough and I think unfortunately we are at that point," Shannon said.

Monday is the last planned bargaining session. If no agreement comes by the end of the month, Bellamy said that under state law, the old contract is continued for another year.