Community college district classified employees call for 'fair and equitable contract'

Classified employees of the Coast Community College District want contract negotiations to move forward without cuts in health benefits.

Nate Banditelli, executive director of the Coast Federation of Classified Employees, said members of the union, which represents the district’s non-faculty staff, are being asked to take cuts that faculty members didn’t take in their latest contract, which was settled last year.

According to the Coast Federation’s chief negotiator, Connie Marten, the district’s proposal for classified workers includes increased monthly contributions for preferred provider organizations, decreased disability benefits and charging retirees $400 more per month for PPOs than active employees.

Dozens of classified employees and their families, wearing union colors, attended a district board meeting Wednesday night in Costa Mesa to call for a “fair and equitable contract.” The current contract expires June 30.

The board took no action, and board President David Grant declined to comment because negotiations are continuing.

The district and the Coast Federation provided charts comparing classified compensation in area districts. The district included benefits in its graphs.

“I and other employees give our lives for the district in exchange for you giving us benefits,” said Ray Cotter, an information technology service analyst for Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. “It’s in the Coast college district’s interest to keep us healthy and living in Orange County.”

Classified employees are paid based on education and years of experience. Starting monthly salaries include $2,666 for a child-care assistant, $3,247 for a library clerk, $3,499 for a groundskeeper and $4,585 for a multimedia specialist.

Emily Friesen, a librarian for OCC since 2004, said she doesn’t expect to lead a life of luxury on her salary but hopes it will keep up with inflation.

“I think my fellow classified staff has been patient, but we’re overdue for a raise,” Friesen said. “Benefit negotiations should not be tacked on. ... Benefits should be negotiated separately.”

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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