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District 203, unions broker deal for Naperville Central work to continue
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff

Construction resumed Tuesday at Naperville Central - temporarily. Now District 203 has a deal with International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 and Laborers' District Council of Chicago and Vicinity exempting the project from a strike.


Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich chats with parents and students, including Gretchen Zelinski,and her son, Taylor, after announcing a deal that will bring striking construction workers back to Naperville Central High School.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich said details of an agreement with two striking unions will be made public after they're approved by the school board on July 19.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Naperville Unit District 203 Superintendent Mark Mitrovich says renovations at Naperville Central will not cost more than the projected $87.7 million - despite a deal the district cut with striking unions for nearly around-the-clock work to complete the project.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/8/2010 11:49 AM | Updated: 7/8/2010 10:28 PM

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Construction crews have returned to work - again - at Naperville Central High School, despite an ongoing labor strike that has shut down hundreds of other projects across the region.

Naperville Unit District 203 officials brokered a deal at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday with International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Laborers' District Council of Chicago and Vicinity that exempts the Central project from the strike, Superintendent Mark Mitrovich announced Thursday.

Mitrovich would not disclose details of the pact and said they will not be discussed until the school board officially approves the deal at its July 19 meeting.

"This is an accord in principle at this point. There is no final document. There are no details," Mitrovich said. "At this point those details will not be released until the board meeting on July 19. But what we did achieve is the fact that the pickets have been taken down, everyone is back at work and we can go ahead."

Ed Maher, spokesman for the Operating Engineers, said the district reached out to the unions Tuesday and negotiations ensued.

"At about 8:30 last night, we agreed to a project labor agreement with the district that ensures skilled union laborers will be used on all district projects for the next seven years and, in exchange, no work stoppages will take place during that time, even in the event of a strike," he said.

School board member Terry Fielden said workers from both unions will pick up second and third shifts and work seven days a week to ensure the $87.7 million renovation project is completed in time for the school's scheduled Aug. 25 opening. Mitrovich said it is yet to be determined whether the contractors will face financial penalties if the renovation is not done on time.

District officials insist the around-the-clock work will be done without any additional cost to taxpayers.

"We will not go over budget on this project. We will be under budget when we're done," Fielden said.

"There are contingencies that have been built into the budget for this project, and they'll fall into those contingencies," Mitrovich said.

Work came to a halt July 1 after the two unions went on strike - and took even nonstriking union employees with them. The groups are at odds with Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association and Excavators Inc., representing contractors, over pay and benefit issues.

The association's spokeswoman, Lissa Christman, was not aware of the agreement Thursday afternoon and said the situation should have never come to that point.

"It's a shame that it took a PLA to get those workers back on the job because they have no business striking in the first place," Christman said. "But it's good to know they can all get back to their very comfortable wages, and hopefully residents in that area will get some relief with that project being complete."

The work at Central, 400 W. Aurora Ave., includes a three-story addition that will house all major subject areas. The 3,000-student school also will get infrastructure upgrades, a new learning resource center, new athletic and music space, improved traffic flow and synthetic turf on its football field.

Officials had explored options such as split shifts at Naperville North High School, petitioning the state Board of Education to delay the opening of classes, or even using vacant space at the nearby Alcatel-Lucent campus in Lisle.