Summer brings mix of resolve, flux for BUSD contracts

School bus

School bus drivers are among the BUSD classified employers whose contract is far from settled. Photo: Kate Ter Haar/CC

Summer vacation is in full swing for most Berkeley Unified School District teachers and students, but the bargaining table between the district and its unions won’t get much downtime.

The district recently released an update on contract negotiations with its four unions.

As previously reported, the district in late May reached a tentative 2012-2013 school year contract agreement with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), which, among other things, provides a 2.5% annual salary increase retroactive for one year,  and a 2.5% one-time bonus on top of a 1% bonus given last year.

The district’s classified employees, who include school secretaries, instructional aides, bus drivers, maintenance and food service workers, received the same raise and bonus, under an agreement called a  “me too” clause, which says if teachers get a raise, classified do too.

But the district’s full contract — with its roughly 600 classifed employees, who are represented by the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) — is far from settled, with even the salary issue up in the air.

“We’re in perpetual negotiations,” said Paula Phillips, president of BCCE. The union is asking for a higher salary increase and disagrees with several take-aways or concessions proposed by the district on such matters as employee evaluations, grievances and maternity/paternity leave, she said.

“While [the ‘me too’ raise] is something, it’s still not enough to make up for the cost of benefits and the cost of living in the Bay Area for my members, who are the lowest paid in the district,” she said. In spring, the union asked for an 8% raise.

Mark Coplan, school district spokesperson, confirmed that the district and BCCE are still at the table, but wouldn’t provide any details. “The district’s always taken the position that we don’t discuss things in public because that’s illegal,” he said.

The raise announced this summer is the first in several years for the classified employees. Coplan added that salaries have been flat for district employees through the state’s recent bleak economics.

Their contract has been unresolved for more than three years, with employees working under successor or extension agreements, Phillips said. It’s complicated by the fact that two separate unions merged under BCCE one year ago, paraprofessional and office staff, and operational staff. The tricky, detailed process of rectifying the two contacts into one isn’t quite done, Phillips said.

Phillips said negotiations will ease until fall, when both sides will be at it again.

Of the school district’s other two unions, the district has a reached a tentative agreement with the Union of Berkeley Administrators (UBA), which covers school principals and is working on an agreement with Local 21, which covers managers, Coplan said. The Local 21 negotiations will go on through the summer, he said. 

Berkeley teachers, district agree on a 2.5% wage increase (05.31.13)
Berkeley teachers’ bonus plan rebuffed by district (03.07.13)
Portraits: Berkeley school gardening and cooking educators (05.29.13)
Berkeley appoints Donald Evans as new Schools Superintendent (05.22.13)

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  • Anonymous

    I am a classified employee with the school district, who works hard helping special education students learn. I must say that the school district’s most recent offer is an improvement, but does not address the problem that it is almost impossible to survive on the very low wages we are paid. My average take-home pay is around $1,000 a month, not nearly enough for food, rent and other expenses. June take-home pay was $ 285. for a half month’s work. The increase the district has offered us will amount to very little because it is based on a small percentage of our nominal wages. BUSD does not pay us enough to survive in the very community that we work in. Many of us must work two or three jobs to get by.The stress we constantly feel struggling to make ends meet erodes away our physical and mental health and ultimately makes us question whether it’s worth it to continue serving the district.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    It sounds like your role is effectively part time. Do you have job responsibilities outside of school hours? As an aide you shouldn’t be planning lessons or grading papers. Was “half a Month’s work” a full 80 hours?

  • 2ndGenBerkeleyan

    As a Berkeley homeowner and tax payer, could I get in on the “me too” clause also? I pay 100% of my families health insurance and into my retirement fund (such as it is).

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I was also self-employed for many years prior to taking this job and have had the experience of paying for my own benefits. Possibly your hourly wages are enough to pay for these things. Ours are often not enough to pay for groceries or the co-pay on medicine for our children. Some employees have looked into getting food stamps, but we earn just a little too much to qualify.

  • Anonymous

    I am on the job 7 hours a day/ 5 days per week. I work in the summer program during the summer.

  • Elizabeth Anderson

    RAther than sniping, we should all recognize the woefully low paid people on which our society and, in this case the legal and moral mandate that our school district educate all children, run. This person has a job in which they may be asked, in a given day, to tutor algebra or chemistry to a student with autism; keep charts to track behavior; help a student change for p.e; act as a notetaker or scribe; give input at an IEP meeting, do secretarial tasks, proofread a paper, help a student with developmental delays do online research.. others in the same job toilet students, feed them, support students with major mobility issues in a therapeutic swim program – etc etc I laud their efforts and work

  • guest

    re: “Rather than sniping…”

    This isn’t sniping it’s people who refuse to be fools. The tasks Anderson described requires skills that are readily available at a cheap price. Calling it ‘education’ doesn’t automatically justify a two or three hundred percent premium.

    The unions should look around and see, we’re not buying that anymore.