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Contract talks reach an impasse

Molly Shore

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

chief negotiator.


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.”