The threat of a teacher strike vote in the Anoka-Hennepin district has eased after union negotiators say progress was made in contract talks Thursday.
Teachers and the district have been negotiating over a teacher pay and benefits package since May and have met 14 times during that period. Anoka-Hennepin's 2,800 teachers have been working 240 days without a contract and union officials were considering authorizing a strike vote for Monday.
The president of the union, Julie Blaha, saw positive moves towards an agreement in today's talks.
"We wanted to recognize that by suspending our 'work to rule' action and also postponing a strike authorization vote," Blaha said.
In January, Anoka-Hennepin teachers told the district they would no longer work after-hours, citing the slow pace of negotiations. The "work to rule" action means teachers will only fulfill the duties spelled out in their contract, and only during the regular workday.
In a statement, a district spokeswoman called the signs of progress "great news." District officials have said their priority is to reach a fiscally responsible settlement with teachers soon.
Less than a week ago, a strike vote by teachers in St. Paul was avoided when the union and district agreed to a tentative contract. The deal, which has yet to be approved by teachers and the school board, lowers class sizes, increases hiring of support staff, and offers teachers a pay increase of about 2 percent in the next two years. Teacher will vote on the offer on Monday. The school board takes up the issue on March 18.
The statewide teachers union, Education Minnesota, said 54 percent of the 352 local bargaining units in the state have reached contract agreements with their districts. The average salary increase is 2 percent in each of the contracts' two years.