VENTURA : College Instructors' Sickout May Spread

Ventura College instructors, unhappy over stalled contract talks, held an unauthorized sickout Tuesday, disrupting registration for the spring semester and canceling numerous classes, school officials said.

An estimated 40% of the school's 150 instructors and all of the counseling staff called in sick, saying they were unable to work, according to Greg Cole, president of the Ventura County Community College District's board of trustees.

School officials expect the sickout to spread to the Moorpark and Oxnard campuses today, Cole said.

Union leaders were unavailable for comment late Tuesday. But Cole said administrators viewed the job action as a sign of discontent by teachers over the absence of a contract since the last contract expired June 30, 1992.

The school district declared an impasse in the contract talks several months ago, Cole said. He said a mediator has not yet completed an evaluation of each side's position or authorized the next step in the process--a fact-finding session with a state arbitrator.

Cole said negotiations have been difficult because declining property tax revenues have hurt the district's ability to pay the cost-of-living and salary increases requested by the teachers.

He said the district has been told by state leaders in Sacramento to expect further cuts in revenues. The size of the cut should be known by the third week of January.

"It's not our intention to be hard-nosed," Cole said. "It's very tough to negotiate a contract without knowing how much money you will have."

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