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Mediator Sought in Beverly Hills Teacher Talks

October 16, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills Unified School District and the union representing its teachers have reached a impasse in negotiations for a salary increase for the 1986-87 school year.

School Board President Frank Fenton said at Tuesday's board meeting that the impasse between the district and the Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing the district's 420 teachers and instructional aides, was declared by both sides and a state mediator will be called in to help break the deadlock.

Fenton said the district had asked the union to put off a permanent salary increase in favor of a 3% bonus payment next year. The teachers rejected the proposal, asking instead for a 7% salary hike.

"It is a great disappointment," said Kenneth Eaves, the association's president. "They profess to have room for movement, but in the five meetings we have found very little that was acceptable."

Fenton said the district has little choice.

"Under our present fiscal circumstances, it would be totally imprudent for the district to agree to any permanent increase in teacher salary levels," he said. "We are asking the teachers to work with us in bad times, and we will work with them in the good times."

The district, Fenton said, has experienced over the past two to three years an annual shortfall of $2 million to $3 million that has exhausted its reserves. The city recently contributed $2.2 million to the district's $26-million budget under a lease arrangement that would open up such school facilities as libraries, playgrounds and auditoriums for public use.

Last spring, the district narrowly avoided the first strike in its history when both sides agreed to a retroactive 5% pay increase for the 1985-86 school year.

The two-year agreement was approved only after a state mediator and fact finder were brought in to help resolve differences. The contract left unsettled the issue of a salary and fringe benefit increases for this year.

The current talks began in September but broke down after five sessions. Negotiations are suspended until the state Public Employment Relations Board appoints a mediator.

If an agreement is not reached, school officials fear that voters next year will not approve a parcel tax to help the financially troubled district.

"If there is labor unrest, we will never get it passed," Fenton said.

The board began discussions Tuesday night on whether to place the measure on the ballot this spring that would require property owners to pay as much as $268 a year in taxes on each of the more than 9,000 parcels of land in the city.

Jacques Bernier, the chief negotiator for the teachers, said that the 7% increase the teachers are seeking is modest and will not affect the chances for the district to pass a tax.

Bernier accused the district of wasting its reserves by spending money on expensive maintenance projects.

"They are unloading their reserves quickly in order to get a parcel tax passed," he said. "There is no doubt that the district has a financial problem, but we are concerned that the districts will be use teachers as cannon fodder."

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