City teachers today agreed to end their two-week walkout and return to the classroom Monday after their union and the debt-plagued school board reached a compromise to save 300 teachers jobs.
The terms of the final agreement agreement disclosed by Chicago Teachers Union President Robert Healey this afternoon to a mass membership meeting gave the teachers most of what they demanded.
The vote was 4,645 to 213 to return to work.
The setttlement also appeared to be a personal victory for Mayor Jane Byrne, who staked a large measure of her steadily diminishing political capital on ending the walkout. She presided over 15 hours of negotiations, conducted in her City Hall offices, that concluded at 6 this morning.
The board is under orders from an emergency fiscal control board to cut $60 million from its operating budget immediately, the first step in a longerange joint plan by the city, the school board and the state to bring fiscal solvency to the cash-starved school system.
Throughout the previous week, teachers union officials had complained that the jobs of too many classroom teachers were being eliminated, and not the union tradesmen, janitors and administrators whose work has little direct impact on classroom instruction.
The union also conplained that the administrators deciding what to pare from the payroll were refusing to cut from their own departments, and said longstanding political patronage agreements kept the axe from falling on nonessential craft workers.
But at 4 this morning, the board said it "found" some money. It agreed to restore the jobs of 300 teachers and 200 teachers aides whose positions would have been eliminated under the board's old plan.
Under the settlement, the union will still lose 1,375 of its 25,000 teaching positions -- many held by substitutes. Remaining teachers in June will make up nine days of classes they missed during the two-week strike, losing only one day's pay.
In addition, all court sanctions imposed during the strike but ignored by the teachers will be withdrawn, both sides agreed. The walkout did not involve salary issues. Teacher wages are already set in a current contract.
Addressing his membership at a ratification meeting this afternoon, Healey said the issues in the strike were "simple" and "could have been settled two weeks ago."
Union officials agreed, however, that Byrne's decision Saturday to invite all the parties to begin marathon negotiations under her aegis helped strengthen their position. "Byrne had too much invested to let the talks go on without a settlement," one said. "She had to save face."
Although urged by the school board to attend classes, 98 percent of the system's 473,000 children stayed away.
With teachers returning to the classroom, Byrne could concentrate on another labor dispute involving city firefighters who are demanding their first written contract.
Both sides agreed Saturday to submit remaining differences to mediation. Observers believe that, rhetoric aside, the small differences between the parties could be resolved without a walkout.