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The steps below along with other steps are explained in a negotiations overview and the steps are numbered in a pictoral representation.

Of course, while the steps outlined below represent what is supposed to happen, either side can use other tactics when it believes it is to their advantage. In Oakland's case, where the District was bankrupt, when the factfinding process "approved" the union position, it was only was a matter of time before the State and other advisors issued their side of the facts.

Step 7. Impasse Procedures - A Summary

Government Code 3540.1(f) "Impasse" means that the parties to a dispute over matters within the scope of representation have reached a point in meeting and negotiating at which their differences in positions are so substanial or prolonged that future meetings would be futile.

Impasse is a deadlock or stalemate in bargaining declare by one or both parties. Declaration of impasse usually precedes implementation of impasse resolution procedures or unilateral action taken by the employer. Under Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) , if the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) determines that an impasse exsists, it will initiate statutory impasse procedures to enable parties to break a stalemate in bargaining. Under EERA, if either party declares impasse, PERB intitiates the procedures, which include mediation and factfinding, by certifying that an impasse exists and appointing a mediator. Failure to participate in the procedures in good faith is unlawful.

Impasse Procedures

Either party may declare an impasse and may request PERB to appoint a mediator. Within five working days after receipt of the request, PERB will rule on the request. If PERB rules that an impasse does not exist, then parties continue to negotiate without a mediator. If PERB rules that an impasse exists, PERB shall appoint a mediator who will meet with the parties. The services of the mediator, including expenses, shall be provided by PERB without cost to the parties.

If the mediator is unable to effect settlement within 15 days of appointment and the mediator declares that factfinding is appropriate, either party may request factfinding. Within five days after a request, each party shall select a person to serve as its member of the three-person factfinding panel.

Step 8. Factfinding

Both parties will assemble facts for presentation to the panel.

The factfinding panel shall consider, weigh, and be guided by the following criteria:

  1. State and Federal laws that are applicable to the employer
  2. Stipulations of the parties
  3. The interest and welfare of the public and the financial ability of the public employer school employer
  4. Comparison of the wages, hours, conditions of employment of the employees involved in the factfinding proceedings with the wages, hours and working conditions of employement of other employers in public schools in comparable communities
  5. The consumer price index for goods and services commonly known as the cost of living
  6. The overall compensation presently received by the employees, including direct wages, compensation, vacations, holidays, and other excused time, insurance and pensions, medical and hospitalization benefits; continuity and stability of employment; and all other benefits received
  7. Any other fact, not confined to the specified above, which are normally and traditionally taken into consideration in making their findings and recommendations.

The factfinding panel shall make findings of fact and recommend terms of settlement which shall be be advisory only. Recommendations shall be submitted in writing to the parties privately before they are made public.

Fact-finding report backs raises for teachers

District is irate over union's release of study

By Simone Sebastian, San Franicsco Chronicle, January 24, 2006

A fact-finding report released Monday by the Oakland teachers union says the public school district can afford to raise teacher salaries by at least 2 percent a year.

The report contradicts claims by Randy Ward, appointed by the state in 2003 to lead the Oakland public school district out of bankruptcy, that the district cannot afford to restore, over two years, the 4 percent pay cut that teachers agreed to two years ago.

The school district and the teachers union have been in an extended labor dispute with teachers working under an expired contract for nearly two years.

The union's release of the report infuriated district officials, who said the report was supposed to have been kept confidential until district and union leaders had met to discuss it.

Before the report was released, Ward had announced he wanted to begin 24-hour negotiations with the teachers union to help stave off a strike.

But union leaders held a news conference and handed out copies of the report, saying that the district should settle immediately by offering the raise suggested in the report.

Both sides claim that the other has impeded negotiations. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement soon, Ward could unilaterally impose a contract, which would probably lead to a union strike vote.

The fact-finding report was written by Claude Ames, chairman of a panel appointed by the state Public Employee Relations Board.

The report, based on four months of work, recommends that the district increase teachers' salaries between 2.0 and 2.5 percent a year. The report says the district has received additional funding from the state and public corporations that could offset the cost of a pay increase.

"Verifiable financial data indicates that the district's financial ability is and continues to improve enough to pay at least 2 percent," according to the report. The increase "would have an enormous positive effect on teacher morale."

According to the report, about 30 percent of Oakland's teachers leave the district every year, largely due to low pay, poor opportunities for promotions and frustration over working conditions.

The Oakland school district, which covers the full cost of teachers' health insurance premiums, is one of the few in the Bay Area that does not place a cap on its contributions to health benefits. Ward has pushed for a $7,000 cap per year per employee on the district's contribution, according to the report.

The report states that reducing health care costs is critical to the district's financial health, and it recommends that teachers contribute 0.5 percent of their annual salary, up to $500 annually, to their health insurance premiums -- less than what Ward has argued for.

The plan would save the district more than $1 million in the first year, according to the report.

In a written response to the report's findings that was also released to the media by the union, district representative Ron Bennett said the district provided "unrefuted evidence" that the Oakland school district, which has lost 20 percent of its student enrollment in four years and received a $100 million bailout loan from the state, could not afford a teacher raise of more than 1.5 percent a year.

District General Counsel Roy Combs refused to comment on the report on Monday, stating that the union breached the rules of labor negotiations by releasing the report before it met with district representatives.

"It is still a confidential document, and I'm going to respect that," Combs said. "We hope that the premature release is not a sign that the union is abandoning the process."

Teacher pay hike opposed

Letter from state says district can't afford increases

By Simone Sebastian, San Franicsco Chronicle, March 7, 2006

The state Department of Education and two school finance agencies insist that the Oakland school district cannot afford to meet union demands for increased teacher salaries, according to letters released by the district Monday.

The letters of support, solicited by the district that went bankrupt in 2003, were the latest salvo in a heated battle between the district and its teachers' union that has fueled fears of a debilitating strike.

Two years of negotiations for a new teachers' contract stalled Jan. 31. Since then, both sides have campaigned for public support.

Teachers may take a strike vote March 22 if there is no further movement in negotiations, said union President Ben Visnick.

In addition to the state Department of Education, the letters came from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a public agency that has audited the district's finances, and by School Services of California, Inc., a private firm that advises districts on financial matters and lobbies the state on their behalf.

"Given the current structural deficit (in the district's budget), any salary increase must be offset by equal reduction in program expenditures," wrote State Superintendent Jack O'Connell. "The district is unable to afford a salary increase beyond that which has already been offered."

In 2003, the state took over the bankrupt district, provided a $100 million bailout loan, and replaced the school board and superintendent with a state administrator, Randy Ward.

In addition to a cap on the district's contribution to health care, Ward has proposed restoring a 4 percent pay cut that teachers took two years ago.

The union wants an additional 3 percent salary increase in the proposed three-year contract. The average salary for a teacher is $53,000.

The union's position was bolstered in January by a fact-finding report from a mediator appointed by the state's Public Employment Relations Board who asserted the district can afford to increase teacher salaries by as much as 2.5 percent a year.

The report said the district's finances have improved considerably since 2003, due to donations from several corporations and foundations, a parcel tax, and increased per-pupil funding from the state.

The district and its supporters contend that the fact-finder's analysis is wrong and that many of the funding sources cited cannot be used for teacher salaries or are temporary and will not sustain the long-term financial impact of a raise.

Officials from School Services of California called parts of the report inaccurate and biased toward the union.

The company took issue with the fact-finder's recommendation that the teachers, who receive free health care from the district, contribute half of one percent of their salaries to health care premiums.

"This recommendation puts the needs of the children behind the demands of the union," said the letter from School Services of California, signed by President and CEO Ron Bennett and associate vice presidents Michele Huntoon and John Gray.

Union president Visnick discounted the letters, saying the sources were biased.

He stressed that the pay raise and health-care cap are only two of several points of contention between the district and union. The union also wants the district to provide a preparatory period for each elementary teacher, a raise for substitute teachers, and temper the district's policy on involuntary transfers of teachers.

A group of concerned parents of Oakland students has begun its own campaign to avert a strike.

The group, mostly members of the Peralta Parent-Teacher Group, sent a petition with nearly 1,000 parent signatures to local and state politicians urging them to get involved in the negotiation stalemate.

"We just want them to reach a fair settlement and not have a strike. A strike would be devastating, and this district would be crippled," said Elizabeth August, whose first-grade daughter attends Peralta Elementary. "Just the idea of getting them back to the table, that's a huge step forward."

Monday evening, the group sponsored a forum where representatives from the district and the union spoke about the negotiations for the first time together in public.

Still, the sides remain at odds. The district and union each want the other to revise its proposal before returning to formal negotiations.

"For the district, this contract is first and foremost a budgetary issue," Ward said. "With the release of the letters today, the district's difficult financial situation is made perfectly clear."

Teachers approve first step to strike

Vote gives union authority to call for protest action; talks with district expected to resume today

By Grace Rauh, Oaland Tribune, March 23, 2006

Oakland teachers overwhelmingly authorized a strike Wednesday, upping the ante in a two-year-long contract battle that is threatening to disrupt education in the state-run school district.

The strike approval does not mean that teachers will leave their classrooms today, but it does give union leaders the authority to call for a strike or organize other protest actions in the future.

When the votes were counted Wednesday night, 1,054 of the union's 3,100 members voted to authorize a strike, with 330 voting against it.

Despite the vote, union and school district officials are expected to resume contract negotiations today.

Union President Ben Visnick said the results represented an "overwhelming mandate of support for (the) bargaining team." He added that State Administrator Randolph Ward has underestimated teachers' resolve.

"We want stability in this district," Visnick told a group of reporters outside the auditorium at Oakland Technical High School, where teachers cast their pink paper ballots earlier in the evening. "We hope they will see we are serious."

The most recent teachers strike in Oakland took place in the spring of 1996. It shut down schools for 26 days.

David de Leeuw, a science teacher at Oakland Technical High School and chairman of the union's bargaining committee, said a one- or two-day strike may be organized if a contract agreement is not reached within the next week or two. The union has said it would hold another meeting with teachers before calling for a longer strike.

When reached by phone after the strike tally was announced, Ward said he was not surprised by the vote results and added that it would not affect negotiations.

"This doesn't change the fiscal realities of the district locally or the state realities," he said. "We continue to push real hard on resolving this and making sure our teachers get what they deserve. We support teachers as much as anyone else out there."

Both sides have said health care costs are a major sticking point in discussions. The district has proposed creating a system so future health care cost increases are shared between teachers and the district. The union has said teachers will contribute no more than half a percent of their salary to the rate hikes.

The two sides are much closer on salary increases. The district is offering teachers a 2 percent raise this year, a 2 percent raise next year and a 1.5 percent raise in the contract's third year.

Union officials want a 2 percent raise the first year, a 2.5 percent raise the second year and a 2 percent raise the third year.

But Visnick said the union would be willing to accept a lower salary package if it means teachers will not have to put more than half a percent of their salaries toward health care.

He said he thinks the strike vote will force Ward to settle.

"We're hopeful with this strong vote tally today, it will actually lessen the need for a strike," he said.

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Last modified: March 23, 2006

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