Berkeley Board of Education representatives met with union employees Wednesday for their 10th and final mediation hearing but failed to agree on a contract.
For the last three years, the district and the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, which represents some 600 district workers, have been at the negotiating table to determine items on medical benefits, pay and involuntary transfer, which would give the district the ability to transfer workers without request. The union declared an impasse and requested mediation in January after unsuccessful negotiations.
Since then, the two parties have been to 10 mediation hearings, including Wednesday’s, according to union president Paula Phillips.
Phillips said she was expecting to sign a contract with the school district during the final session of collective bargaining but was disappointed by the outcome.
“We were prepared to settle and resolve this,” Phillips said. “We felt the mediation was going well.”
The last bargaining meeting was scheduled for right before the school board’s public meeting, where several members of the union spoke during public comment, claiming the district had disrespected them. According to union members, school district members left the bargaining table during negotiations to go to another meeting and never returned.
“We are asking you to be fair in these decisions and stop playing games,” said Linnette Robinson, the union’s vice president, to the board.
School board president Josh Daniels said the board was legally unable to comment about the negotiations. Daniels did emphasize, though, that the board is looking forward to reaching an agreement.
“We really would like a contract. It would be fantastic,” Daniels said. “The board is strongly committed to reaching a contract.”
Superintendent Donald Evans had written to employees in an email Friday that he hoped to reach an agreement at the negotiating table with the union Wednesday.
Also in attendance at the public school board meeting was another one of the district’s labor union, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, which recently reached agreement on a contract with the district that resulted in a pay increase for teachers.
“I want to say that BFT stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in BCCE and we know there is a deep desire to reach a contract and I sincerely hope that will happen soon,” said BFT President Cathy Campbell to the board.
According to a union update, the state mediator will now send both sides to a fact-finding process, in which a three-member panel will hear the district and the union’s last bargaining items. If agreement is not reached, the district will have the right to give its final offer, and the union will have the right to strike.