Pictured: Faculty members, from left, Lucy Capuano, David Carlander and Jocelyn Fechner at the Oct. 8 public meeting of the Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees.

by Kimberly Rivers

krivers@timespublications.com

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) proceeded to the next step in contract negotiations that have so far been unsuccessful with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1828.

“They are declaring that they have made their last and final offer to us, and no further negotiations are possible between the district and the faculty,” said Michael Sheetz, executive director, AFT Local 1828. He said the VCCCD intends “to file a declaration of impasse today with the California Employee Relations Board.”

That action sets in motion a process governed by state law; the next step is non-binding mediation.

“This next step is specified in our current contract with AFT and provides both parties with the opportunity for assistance from an outside, impartial state-appointed mediator when no further progress is being made,” said Greg Gillespie, VCCCD chancellor.

The district has firmly held to its position that switching to California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CALPERS) to manage the health insurance for all district employees will allow the district to offer faculty raises and put all employees, including classified staff, on the same healthcare plan. 

Faculty have pointed to a large reserve fund, and that there have not been any raises in three years. They also do not want to change their healthcare coverage.

“AFT is demanding pay increases of 10 percent in each of the next three years with no changes to their medical plan,” stated VCCCD in a statement released on Nov. 5.

But Sheetz said they are potentially open to other healthcare options and referred to the ongoing work of the Health Benefits Committee that was convened by the district pursuant to the contract that recently expired. Sheetz said that committee was tasked with finding healthcare plan alternatives that lower overall costs and that the district hasn’t allowed the committee to complete its work before deciding on CALPERS.

Sheetz also said that the latest district offer is the same as an earlier offer, but with “an additional $2,410 one-time bonus, contingent on accepting the CALPERS health plan.” He added that the union has “concerns” about whether putting all insureds on CALPERS is even “feasible” because some retirees may not qualify.

Other AFT demands that were not addressed in the final offer included an effort to “increase the amount of pay for part-time faculty” related to office hours. According to Sheetz, it’s something most part-time teachers do naturally for “our students,” but part-time teachers are not currently paid for those hours.

District officials have said they want to provide raises and that a change in the health plan is necessary in order to do that, but Sheetz argued that, “if that was their true intention,” the proposed faculty raises would equal the amount saved, which he claims is not the case.

The VCCCD Board of Trustee meeting takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6 p.m., 761 Daily Drive, Camarillo.