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Mediator enters talks

Two divisive issues stand between teacher union and college as negotiations continue

Posted: May 14, 2009 9:47 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2009 8:00 a.m.
 
Contract negotiations between College of the Canyons and the union representing 450 part-time faculty members resume today, this time with the help of a mediator to work through issues involving pay and seniority rights.

"Hopefully the mediation works out where the district sees the fairness of both issues," said Beverly Cope, president of Part-Time Faculty United.

The district and union declared a contract impasse in March after holding contract negotiations since June 2008.

Part-time faculty members are asking for seniority rights. If that request is granted, when the community college hires part-time faculty, it would rehire those with the most years at the college.

"We hope to get something in place for some sort of kind of control over whether the district rehires the most senior people at this school for the next semester," Cope said.

The efforts of the part-time faculty were echoed during Tuesday's board meeting where a handful of supporters expressed their concerns to board members.

"We want decent salary, seniority and respect for our part-time faculty," said Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers.

About 35 community college districts across the state, including the Los Angeles Community College District, offer seniority rights to part-time faculty, Cope said.

While he acknowledged that employees want to have job security, the Santa Clarita Community College District, which encompasses the two College of the Canyons campuses, is opposed to offering seniority rights.

"Our board of trustees feels strongly that after having spoken to other trustees, that this is not the way to go," said Michael Wilding, vice president of student services.

The worry is that the seniority system would prevent the college from choosing which professors could be selected for classes.

"We want to be able to put the best people in front of the classroom," Wilding said.

The union is also asking for a two-a-half percent pay increase.

"We think the district can afford something," Cope said.

Starting pay for part-time faculty is about $56 an hour and goes up to $63 an hour.

Pay raises may not be an option at this point.

"We just don't have any money," Wilding said.

The community college is facing unusual timing, as the outcome of the May 19 election will determine the future funding for the college, Wilding said.

The union also filed an unfair labor practice complaint on behalf of two history instructors, claiming that the two were not rehired because of their union activity, Cope said.

"We hope to get their classes restored," Cope said.

The matter will come before the Public Employment Relations Board, which will decide whether to pursue with the claim.

Wilding would not comment directly about the complaint, but said, "We have a set of arguments that we believe are sound," he said.

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