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Negotiation Update

 

September 14, 2018

 

The following concerns the negotiations session held on September 14, 2018, between Beaumont Unified School District (District) and California School Employees Association & its Chapter 351 (Association)

On Friday, September 14, 2018, the District and the Association met for negotiations concerning the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.  The District reiterated its compensation proposal, which includes the following components:

  • An increase of $714.06 to all three Health Benefits caps
  • 1.5% increase to the salary schedule retroactive to January 1, 2018
  • 1% increase to the salary schedule effective July 1, 2018

This offer provides an on-going 2.5% salary increase and an increase to the District's Health Benefits cap, which substantially reduces or eliminates members out of pocket health costs.

Unfortunately, the Association and the District were unable to reach agreement concerning language regarding the negotiation of job descriptions and Article 12 (Classification/Reclassification).  The Association indicated that it intended to declare impasse, which abruptly ended the bargaining session.

 

The PERB Impasse Resolution Process

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q:  Are classified employees currently working without a contract?

A:  No, the current contract is still largely in place.

The current contract expired on June 30, 2018, but remains largely in effect until a successor agreement is negotiated. Current salaries and benefits, as well as the current District contribution to health and welfare benefits  continue until a new agreement on total compensation is reached.

 

Q:  What happens if the parties can’t reach an agreement in negotiations?

A:  The state law creating collective bargaining rights for public employees also contains a mandatory impasse resolution process.

If it becomes clear that the district and union bargaining teams cannot reach a mutually acceptable agreement through standard negotiations, either one or both of the parties may ask the State to intervene. The Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) is asked to issue a formal declaration of impasse. When that happens, PERB assigns a neutral mediator from the State Mediation and Conciliation Service. The impartial mediator then facilitates all talks between the two teams.

   

Q:  Is the District at impasse under state collective bargaining law?

A:  Yes, the Association has indicated that the parties are at impasse and they intend to file the necessary paperwork with the state. 

The negotiating teams met twelve times over several months and were unable to reach agreement.  The impasse process allows the parties to utilize a neutral mediator to facilitate future negotiations.  This is a normal part of public school labor negotiations and hundreds of school districts have used mediation to narrow their differences and clarify the issues in dispute.  The District is committed to negotiating in good faith in an atmosphere of mutual respect, honesty, and open communication.

 

Q:  How does mediation work?

A:  It varies according to the style and technique favored by the appointed mediator.

The purpose of mediation is to bring in a third party to assist the parties to reach a Tentative Agreement that will be voted upon by the membership. In most cases, on the day of the mediation session, the mediator might have the parties meet together and/or separately to float ideas and offer/counteroffers. The role of the mediator is to see if he or she can identify where the parties might be willing to compromise in their positions. The mediator can also offer his or her own suggestions for a settlement. This is all done in confidential, closed sessions, not open to the general public or rank and file employees.

 

It is up to the mediator to decide how long mediation should continue.  Mediation can last weeks and sometimes even many months.

 

Q:  What happens if an agreement is not reached in mediation?

A:  If a settlement is not reached, the mediator will officially certify the parties to fact-finding.

This is the final step in the State’s impasse resolution process. The parties cannot proceed to fact-finding without the approval of the mediator.

 

Q:  How does fact-finding work?

A:  A three-person fact finding panel will be convened to review the arguments and proposals from both sides and issue a set of non-binding recommendations for a settlement.

District management and the union each appoint one member to the fact-finding panel. They parties then mutually agree on a neutral, independent fact finding panel chairperson from a list of qualified labor relations professionals supplied by the state. The fact finding hearing usually takes at least a month to schedule.  The hearing is not open to the public.

 

Q:  What is involved in the fact-finding hearing?

A:  The panel schedules and holds private hearings where both sides present their last, best offers.

The District and the union prepare extensive binders with comparative data and arguments supporting their positions. The panel members meet in private to evaluate the positions and the data. Within 30 days, the panel is required to issue a report that contains findings of fact and non-binding recommendations. Before the report is made public, the parties have one more chance to meet in a closed session to attempt to reach a tentative agreement using the report.  By statute, this process can take no longer than ten days from the time the report is made public.

 

Q:  Is the fact finder’s recommendation binding on the parties?

A:  The fact finder’s report is advisory only.

Fact-finding is not like arbitration where an administrative law judge decides between competing proposals presented by either side in a dispute. Arbitration is a winner-take-all situation. In fact-finding, the panel chairperson can make suggestions that are compromises. However, the fact finder cannot introduce issues that have not already been submitted in the last best offers by the parties.

 

Q:  Can negotiations continue while fact-finding is underway?

A:  Possibly.

The fact-finding process usually includes a series of back and forth discussions or mediation sessions involving the fact finding panel chair and both bargaining teams after the hearing is finished. In some cases, once the parties have heard all of the facts and have some indication of the fact finding panel’s positions, a settlement agreement can be reached. In other cases, the parties cannot agree that day, but agree to resume mediation while the fact finder’s report is pending. Sometimes a settlement agreement can be reached prior to the report being issued. The state collective bargaining law requires that once the fact finding report is issued, the parties must meet at least one more time to see if the provisions of the neutral’s report can form an acceptable basis for a negotiated settlement.

 

Q:  If the impasse process doesn’t lead to an agreement will there be a strike?

A:  Talk of a strike occurring is premature.

Strikes can be legal in California, but they generally cannot occur until all steps in the impasse process have been exhausted.  Since we are just beginning the mediation process, a strike, if it was going to occur, is many months away. Typically, union leaders take a strike authorization vote to show solidarity and put pressure on management to settle the dispute. It also enables the union leaders to declare a strike without going back to the employees for approval. This process does not allow members to vote whether they want to accept the District’s last best offer or go on strike.

 

Q:   Can the District impose its last, best and final offer if fact-finding doesn’t work?

A:  Yes, in theory. The last, best and final offer is the only unilateral action that the District can impose if a negotiated agreement cannot be reached.

However, since the union would still maintain the right to strike, it is unlikely that the District would unilaterally impose a new contract. The current salary schedule and health and welfare benefit contribution would remain in effect until a new agreement is signed by both parties.

 

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