After Delays, BCCE Negotiations Proceed to Final Stage
(BERKELEY, CA) ― After over a month of delay, the Berkeley Unified School District is moving to the final step in the negotiations process in order to try to reach agreement on a contract with the leadership of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) covering 570 of the District’s employees.
“We deeply value our classified staff,” said School Board President Josh Daniels. “They work hard and are dedicated to our district and our students. This further delay is unnecessary and is harmful to our employees and our students.”
On June 16th the District team made a comprehensive settlement proposal that would benefit BCCE members. Most notably, the proposal offered all BCCE members on-going raises that are higher than those received by any other bargaining unit. (Specifically, the proposal offers a 2.5% retroactive raise for 2013-14, an additional raise of 2% for 2014-15, and a 0.5% bonus for 2014-15.) This is in addition to the 2.5% on-going salary increase and 3.5% bonus that all district employees received last year.
It appears the main sticking point concerns employee transfers. The District seeks the ability to transfer staff to best meet the needs of students (especially special education students) with built-in employee protections. The District also wants to facilitate voluntary transfers requested by BCCE members.
BCCE leadership took over a month to provide a counter proposal, which was followed by a final mediation session between BCCE leadership and the District yesterday on July 29th. At the end of that session, the state-appointed mediator determined that further mediation would not be productive. The proposal by BCCE leadership did not include the ability to transfer staff to best meet the needs of students and the BCCE leadership actually hardened even further during the last session. The mediator has now released the parties to fact finding – the next step in the process – in order to try to reach an agreement.
“Both sides have devoted countless hours over the past three years trying to reach common ground,” said Daniels. “It’s time to move this process forward and get a contract.”
The District has been negotiating with BCCE leadership for three years. The negotiations have been unusually complex as a result of the need to merge two different contracts. (In late 2011, BCCE merged with another union of BUSD classified employees.) In the vast majority of instances where there are differences between the two contracts, the District’s proposals give BCCE members the more favorable terms between the two contracts. For example, the District’s proposal equalizes and provides the more favorable health contribution and salary schedules for their unit members.
“At this point, we are just exasperated by the delays on the part of BCCE’s negotiating team, which only prevent BCCE members from receiving the proposed raises and bonuses. And we are concerned about the impact that the lack of a contract may have in the Fall on our employees and our students,” said Daniels.
“We are disappointed we could not reach a settlement in mediation but we agree with the mediator’s assessment that these talks have gone on long enough,” Superintendent Donald Evans said. “We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate before the impartial fact finding panel that the District’s proposals are fair and reasonable. We will encourage the panel to set a hearing date as soon as possible so we can move forward with the best interests of our students and employees at the forefront.”
It is important to note that nothing prohibits the District and BCCE leadership from conducting negotiations during the fact finding process and the District welcomes the opportunity to do so when the BCCE negotiating team is ready to genuinely engage.
“We are hopeful that we can resolve our differences with the BCCE bargaining team and move forward into the new school year focusing on our students’ educational needs without the distraction of an ongoing labor dispute,” Evans said. The District will keep employees and the public fully informed as the negotiations enter this final phase. For updates, please visit https://www.berkeleyschools.net/negotiations-update.
For the past six months, the parties have been in mediation with a neutral state-appointed mediator in the hopes of reaching agreement. The mediator has now released both parties to fact finding after determining that further mediation would not be productive. Under fact finding, an impartial three-person fact finding panel is convened to hear the arguments from both sides and issue a non-binding settlement recommendation. Under state law, the fact-finding hearing is not open to the public.