School bus
School bus drivers are among the BUSD classified employers whose contract is far from settled. Photo: Kate Ter Haar/CC

Summer vacation is in full swing for most Berkeley Unified School District teachers and students, but the bargaining table between the district and its unions won’t get much downtime.

The district recently released an update on contract negotiations with its four unions.

As previously reported, the district in late May reached a tentative 2012-2013 school year contract agreement with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), which, among other things, provides a 2.5% annual salary increase retroactive for one year,  and a 2.5% one-time bonus on top of a 1% bonus given last year.

The district’s classified employees, who include school secretaries, instructional aides, bus drivers, maintenance and food service workers, received the same raise and bonus, under an agreement called a  “me too” clause, which says if teachers get a raise, classified do too.

But the district’s full contract — with its roughly 600 classifed employees, who are represented by the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) — is far from settled, with even the salary issue up in the air.

“We’re in perpetual negotiations,” said Paula Phillips, president of BCCE. The union is asking for a higher salary increase and disagrees with several take-aways or concessions proposed by the district on such matters as employee evaluations, grievances and maternity/paternity leave, she said.

“While [the ‘me too’ raise] is something, it’s still not enough to make up for the cost of benefits and the cost of living in the Bay Area for my members, who are the lowest paid in the district,” she said. In spring, the union asked for an 8% raise.

Mark Coplan, school district spokesperson, confirmed that the district and BCCE are still at the table, but wouldn’t provide any details. “The district’s always taken the position that we don’t discuss things in public because that’s illegal,” he said.

The raise announced this summer is the first in several years for the classified employees. Coplan added that salaries have been flat for district employees through the state’s recent bleak economics.

Their contract has been unresolved for more than three years, with employees working under successor or extension agreements, Phillips said. It’s complicated by the fact that two separate unions merged under BCCE one year ago, paraprofessional and office staff, and operational staff. The tricky, detailed process of rectifying the two contacts into one isn’t quite done, Phillips said.

Phillips said negotiations will ease until fall, when both sides will be at it again.

Of the school district’s other two unions, the district has a reached a tentative agreement with the Union of Berkeley Administrators (UBA), which covers school principals and is working on an agreement with Local 21, which covers managers, Coplan said. The Local 21 negotiations will go on through the summer, he said. 

Berkeley teachers, district agree on a 2.5% wage increase (05.31.13)
Berkeley teachers’ bonus plan rebuffed by district (03.07.13)
Portraits: Berkeley school gardening and cooking educators (05.29.13)
Berkeley appoints Donald Evans as new Schools Superintendent (05.22.13)

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Freelancer Catherine "Kate" Rauch has been contributing to Berkeleyside for several years. Her work as a journalist has encompassed everything from 10 years as a daily news reporter for the East Bay Times,...