Teacher’s contract negotiations end

On March 16, a tentative contract was reached between the San Mateo Community College District and the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

The contract will be voted on in a ratification vote held in April to decide if the contract will be official for the next three years.

If the contract is approved, the teachers will receive a 2.75 percent salary increase, with retroactive pay from July 1, 2004 to the present. The medical cap will also be increased to reduce out-of-pocket costs for teachers and dependents.

The contract was negotiated between two sides, the district and the teachers’ union. Harry Joel, vice chancellor of human resources and employee relations, has been representing the district in the negotiations since spring 2004.

“We are dealing with such an unknown right now,” Joel said. “There is such an uncertainty with the state budget.”

A lot of what Joel and the executive committee decides for the teachers’ contract depends on what position the state’s budget is in and what decisions Gov. Schwarzenegger has made.

In the past, the district made money from the property taxes. Since the governor’s cuts on education and vehicle license fees, however, the money from property taxes will mostly go to the city, so the district ends up losing out on a large source of funds.

Most years, the district has considered the cost of living along with the teachers’ salaries, the districts own financial position and how the cost of living has gone up year to year to negotiate the contract.

Joel hopes the teachers will be happy with the negotiation and claims it benefits the teachers.

“We were able to get an increase in salary when so many other districts can’t do that,” Joel said. “The Contra Costa district is lowering salaries and issuing layoffs. To get a medical cap and salary increase is really good. I think they will be pleased.”

The district’s executive committee hired Industrial Employers Distributors Association (IEDA), a company that specializes in negotiating with cities, counties and other agencies. IEDA provided the district with Lee Finney, who was acted as chief spokesperson. Finney, Joel and Dean Paula Anderson were the main people working on the negotiations; they would periodically meet with the deans to get input.

“A lot of the negotiation process is looking at the language and laws change, things need to be updated,” Joel said.

The negotiation process did take a long time, almost one year. Joel said the reason it took so long was time constraints. So much of the process took place during the summer when most were on vacation, making it difficult to get the entire faculty to come together.

Some question if Joel and the other district members negotiated these contracts in the best interest of the teachers or only what’s best for the district. According to Joel, it’s a little of both.

“It’s a mixed bag,” he said. “The union is here to protect the teachers. The more protection the teachers get, the more restrictive we can be. Certain things we do are helpful for the faculty, but the deans feel are too restrictive and then we have to loosen up.”