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In Beverly Hills : Tentative Pact May Avert Teacher Strike

September 03, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Faced with the threat of a strike on the opening day of school next week, negotiators for the Beverly Hills Unified School District and the teachers' union reached a tentative agreement Sunday on a new contract.

Details of the agreement, reached after an 18-hour negotiating session, are being withheld until Tuesday, when the Board of Education and the Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing 300 teachers, vote on the pact.

Kenneth Eaves, president of the teachers' association, said that both sides were under pressure to reach an agreement, and he described the talks as a "classic example" of what collective bargaining should be.

"We all were aware that the association has determined that there would be an agreement by the end of the weekend or the other alternative would be a strike," he said.

'Positive Start'

The agreement was described as a compromise. "We were either going to accomplish something or declare an impasse," said school board member Frank Fenton. "Both sides wanted to reach an agreement and get the school year off to a positive start."

Pressure has been building for an agreement since June, when the teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a settlement was not reached on a 1986-87 salary increase.

The pay raise was the one major area that the district held over for negotiation when a two-year contract was approved with the teachers in March, 1986. That contract gave the teachers a 5% pay increase for the 1985-86 school year, but negotiations for the second year failed to produce an agreement.

The district proposed a 3% increase for the second year of the agreement, but the teachers asked for a 7% pay hike. The average teacher salary in Beverly Hills is $39,000.

Notices to Parents

The failure to reach an agreement led to an impasse. To break the deadlock, teachers pressured the board last spring by setting up pickets at schools where notices were handed to parents, calling attention to the lack of an agreement.

The deadlock was broken when newly appointed Beverly Hills school Supt. Robert French suggested that marathon talks be held with the board present to assist the district's negotiating team.

French said that the presence of school board members and union executives, instead of just representatives, contributed to the agreement by eliminating delays. "Everybody knew it was serious," he said. "Negotiations were held in a very positive, upbeat and professional manner."

"The problem in the past was that the board never gave anyone the authority" to make decisions, said Jacques Bernier, the teachers' chief negotiator. "We wanted to have the people nearby who were going to make the decisions and he (French) was instrumental in setting that up."

Union president Eaves said, "Because the Board of Education was available for immediate consultation, their bargaining team was able to move with the authority to act without waiting a week for an answer."

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