Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon.
L.E. Ellison, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Plaintiffs, Barbara J. Bogguess et al., are the Rock Island Educational Paraprofessional Association (RIEPA) and 18 of its member teacher's aides, who appeal a decision of the circuit court of Rock Island County upholding a decision of the board of education of Rock Island School District No. 41 (board) to reduce their hours of employment by one hour per day during the 1982-83 school year.
RIEPA and the board entered into a collective bargaining agreement in 1981 which was to remain in effect through June of 1984. The agreement was subject to a review of economic issues in 1983. In August 1982, the board reduced the hours of 16 aides, including plaintiff Bogguess. The parties agree that no grievance was filed and further agree that the reduction was not discussed nor was it considered an issue in the renegotiations which were then in progress. A further reduction of hours as to the remaining aides took place in January 1983. A grievance was filed following this second reduction which ultimately led to this action. Between August and January the aides affiliated with the Illinois Educational Association.
The reduction by the board was apparently necessary because the district, as a result of an unexpected reduction in State and Federal aid, as well as a decline in tax revenues and an increase in health insurance costs, was facing a large deficit for the 1983-84 school year. The reduction in hours was made as an alternative to laying off several of the aides. The reduction was one of a number of steps taken by the district to meet its perceived financial crisis. It also reduced administrative positions and laid off 137 teachers. Seventy-five of the teachers remained without employment in 1983-84.
The plaintiffs challenge the alleged financial crisis by insisting that the evidence indicated there was in fact a $400,000 carryover from the 1982-83 school year to the following term. In addition, they argue that if there was indeed a financial crisis on the horizon, it went without mention at the time the renegotiations were concluded in October 1982.
Article XIV of the agreement specified the hours of employment for full-time employees. The hours ranged from 25 hours per week to 8 hours per day, depending upon the job assignment and jobsite.
"Full-time Pre-School -- 6 3/4 hrs/day 1/2 hour lunch unpaid
Full-time Elementary -- 6 3/4 hrs/day 1/2 hour lunch unpaid
Full-time Secondary -- 7 hrs/day 1/2 hour lunch unpaid
Full-time Library -- 25 hrs/week 1/2 hour lunch unpaid
Full-time T.E.C. -- 8 hrs/day 1/2 hour Supervisor lunch unpaid."
The salary schedule attached to the contract established an hourly rate of pay depending on the experience and education of the individuals involved. Taken together, these two portions of the contract were used to compute the amount of compensation an employee of the district could expect to receive.
The cuts represented a substantial reduction in the plaintiffs' compensation ranging from 12 1/2% to 15%.
In upholding the decision of the board, the circuit court believed that, in the absence of an agreement or statutory provision to the contrary, the power of the board to control the length of the workday or the workweek was absolute. While the court acknowledged that there was nothing in the collective bargaining agreement which authorized the board to reduce hours, it believed such authorization was unnecessary; that unless ...