Eleven months of negotiations between the Burbank Unified School
District and the California School Employees Assn. (CSEA) have
reached an impasse because the two parties could not agree on health
and retirement benefits and raises.
Last week, school board members requested that the district’s
attorney file a Declaration of Impasse with the state’s Public
Employees Relations Board. A mediator will be appointed in an attempt
to arrive at an agreement between the district and union members who
have been working without a contract since June 2002.
CSEA represents nearly 200 school secretaries, cafeteria workers,
janitors, teacher assistants and other classified employees.
Among the major stumbling blocks are the association’s refusal to
give up its CalPERS health coverage, and rejection of the district’s
proposed two-tier retirement plan, said Terri Marenghi, the union’s
If the plan is adopted, employees retiring after June 30 could
lose vision care coverage, and as much as five years of paid medical
coverage, Marenghi said.
“The district is proposing no raise whatsoever, and now it wants
us to take a cut in retirement,” she said.
Prior to the impasse, several items had already been accepted by
both parties, including a four-day, 10-hour work week during the
summer, and a year-round school schedule in 2003-04, said Dvora
Mayer, CSEA’s labor relations representative.
“We asked if they could ratify those and continue negotiations on
salary and benefits,” Mayer said. “The board said ‘no.’ They want the
whole thing finished now.
“They’re really holding our contract hostage,” she added. “It’s
direct punishment for not withdrawing from CalPERS.”
Nancy Gascich, director of personnel services for the district and
a negotiator, refuted Mayer’s claim.
“This isn’t about punishment,” Gascich said. “This is about not
being able to come to agreement. The district just can’t continue to
afford to pay these kinds of costs for health and welfare benefits.”
Burbank Teachers Assn. members who did agree to give up their
CalPERS health coverage in August in exchange for minimal raises,
have accepted a medical cap of $9,438 per employee per year, Gascich
said. It’s the maximum contribution the district proposes to pay for
full-time employees. Annual health care costs for the 200 full-time
California School Employees Assn. members are $9,878 per employee.
“We’ve had 16 sessions since Feb. 13, so it’s not like the
district has not made an effort to bargain with them,” Gascich said.
Board of Education President Trish Burnett declined to discuss
specifics of the negotiations.
“We just weren’t able to progress,” she said. “It’s unfortunate
that we had to go to impasse, but we have to move forward.”