Teacher contract negotiations end after 21 hours with no deal reached

Teacher contract negotiations end after 21 hours with no deal reached

PORTLAND, Ore. -- After more than 21 hours of negotiations, Portland Public Schools and its teachers ended talks early Tuesday morning with no deal reached on a contract.

The two sides agreed to take a break and reconnect throughout this week, Portland Association of Teachers President Gwen Sullivan said. No further talks are scheduled at this point, the district said in a tweet.

“We put in a lot of hard work, but we weren’t able to get there yet,” said Sullivan. “From the beginning of this contract bargain – and every day in school buildings across this city -- Portland teachers have been fighting for the schools our students deserve. We won’t give up.

Sullivan said the union is very proud of the progress they made during negotiations.

"I think it's time for us to actually take our work back to the office and write the contract language down," she said.

Rob Cowie, a Portland Public Schools spokesman said the district was disappointed that a deal wasn't reached.

“We felt like we were close, and the fact that we weren't able to get there is a big disappointment," said Cowie. "But there's still an opportunity to reach an agreement and that's what we're focused on."

The 21-hour mediated negotiation went all night until around 6:30 a.m.

The proposals that are going back-and-forth during these round-the-clock talks are "package" proposals that address the remaining sticking points left to hash out. They are also the most significant aspects of the contract. Those include: salary, health insurance, workload limitations, hiring and layoff processes, and length of the contract.

Teachers are upset that the district wants to cap health insurance and get rid of workload projections and early retirement.

The way these mediated negotiations work is that both sides are in separate rooms and they send representatives into a neutral room every couple of hours to meet.

These negotiations have been going on since last April and more than 100 hours of talks have happened in the past few weeks.

"It's not over yet, and we'll continue to see where we get in the next couple of days," Cowie said.

Sullivan said parents should have nothing to worry about.

"We're going to keep on going and make sure that we can settle this contract to make sure it meets the needs of their kids," she said.

On Tuesday night the school board met in executive session to get updated on the latest offer presented by the teachers union. Afterward, the board's co-chairs released this statement:

Tonight the Portland School Board met in executive session following the breakup of talks toward a new teacher contract earlier this morning. School board co-chairs Greg Belisle and Pam Knowles, issued the following statement:
 
“After the end of last night’s talks, we are disappointed that bargaining teams from Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers were not able to reach a tentative agreement. We recognize the strenuous efforts that generated new ideas, narrowed the gap on key issues and nearly produced a settlement. We are hopeful that negotiators can keep talking over the next few days and reach an agreement as soon as possible that is in the best interests of Portland’s students. Reaching an agreement is the best way for our community to move forward and work together to better support our schools.”
 
The school board meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday January 8, 2014 has been cancelled.


KATU's Valerie Hurst and Hillary Lake contributed to this story.