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On July 1 of this year I will begin my fourth decade in the field of Education. During that time I have seen many “seasons of negotiations” with employee unions, most of which have been quite fascinating. Our latest, with our own teachers’ union, A.C.T., has been equally intriguing.
In late 2013, A.C.T. was asking for a 5% pay increase for its members for the 2013-14 school year. The District’s response to A.C.T. was that it would wait until the Governor published his proposed budget in January of 2014 before determining what we could offer. After the Governor came out with his budget, I asked the Board to allow us to run the numbers to see what we could afford at the time for salary increases, not knowing how much money would be expended in the near future for our L(ocal) C(ontrol) A(ccountability) P(lan), a plan designed to meet the demands of our neediest students.
The salary offer made by the District on February 12th was a 2% salary increase for the 2013-14 school year retroactive to July 1, 2013; an additional 3% salary increase for the 2014-15 school year; and a 10% increase in health and welfare benefits in 2014-15. A.C.T. refused the offer and would not move off its 5% stance for salary, so on February 28 the District made another proposal. The District offered 3% retroactive for this school year so the teachers would receive more compensation in the current year, as well as 2% more in salary for the 2014-15 school year with a 10% increase to the District health and welfare contribution. In addition, we offered to re-open salary discussions on July 1 of 2014 to see if there was more money available for salary increases after the “Governor’s May Budget Revise” was announced, and after the LCAP would hopefully be approved by the Board in June.
A.C.T. unequivocally rejected our offer (which was subsequently accepted by our two other employee groups, C.S.E.A. and CHAMP), making it clear that they were unwilling to move off of their 5% salary demand. A.C.T. declared “IMPASSE” at the negotiations table on March 5th (and again publicly at the March 6th Board Meeting).
Once IMPASSE is declared, the first step in the process is that the party which declares IMPASSE (in this case, A.C.T.) files an impasse declaration with the P(ublic) E(mployment) R(elations) B(oard) which assigns a mediator to meet with both parties in an attempt to reach an agreement; this process was explained to the Board with the hope that we would be back at the table soon with A.C.T. and a mediator.
Although it was A.C.T. that declared an impasse on March 5, bringing negotiations to a halt, in April A.C.T. attacked the District and Board publicly as being unwilling to negotiate and return to the negotiations table. This accusation is especially troubling in light of the fact that the District had improved its offer while A.C.T. stood on its initial demand. It also shows A.C.T.’s questionable bargaining conduct, because A.C.T. delayed more than 7 weeks before filing its impasse declaration with PERB on April 24, 2014. Finally, on the last day of April, April 30, I heard from the mediator. Our first mediation session is scheduled for June 10 with A.C.T.
In spite of these facts, I remain optimistic that through mediation we will find a resolution to our differences. Too often negotiations tend to be difficult and the District is characterized as being insensitive to the needs of its employees. In this particular case and in spite of not knowing the future constraints on the budget, this Board allowed us to offer a salary increase to our teachers. The Board remains open to the possibility of an alternative resolution. I implore our teachers not to "lose hope." I am still confident that a resolution to our differences will come very soon.
Wayne M. Joseph
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