Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020 @ 7:23 p.m.

DNTA Releases Fact Finders' Report; Possible Teachers' Strike Still Up In The Air

Del Norte Unified School District staff picket at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds on Friday in support of certificated staff. Photo: Jessica Cejnar

Though the union that represents Del Norte Unified School District certificated staff has made the recommendations of a neutral third party arbitrator public, it does not expect to strike on Wednesday.

The report, finalized Tuesday by a representative of the Public Employee Relations Board of California, recommends a 2 percent salary increase for certificated staff effective July 1, 2019. If the district and the Del Norte Teachers Association agree to a multi-year contract, the fact finder recommends an additional 2 percent increase effective July 1 each year in 2020-21 and in 2021-22, according to the report.

According to DNTA Lead Negotiator Paige Thompson, the report contains recommendations only and is not binding.

Meanwhile, the timeline for when certificated staff will strike is something the union has been trying to resolve with the district, Lathe Gill, California Teachers Association chapter consultant for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Tuesday.

Though the DNTA executive Monday discussed the possibility of striking, it has not set a date yet, Gill said.

“We’re training our picket captains today,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We have a community meeting Thursday at the Vets Hall for parents and community members (to ask) questions about the teachers’ crisis or a possible strike.”

Under its current contract with DNUSD, DNTA must give the district three business days’ notice before deciding to strike only after the district has imposed a last, best and final offer.

DNUSD and DNTA have been at an impasse in contract negotiations for the 2019-2020 school year since June 28. Last month both parties met with a neutral arbitrator from the Public Employees Relations Board of California, who included a recommendation in a draft report. That draft report was expected to be finalized on Tuesday.

Though the fact finder’s final report has yet to be released, the district and DNTA continues to negotiate. The Del Norte County Unified School District Board of Trustees held a special meeting Monday, but took no action.

Also on Monday, the DNTA executive board sent a letter to its members in response to a statement from district Superintendent Jeff Harris made at Thursday’s school board meeting. According to Harris, since the district hasn’t tendered its “last, best and final” offer, the Board didn’t feel a strike can occur.

Harris made this statement after the Board of Trustees voted to remove a resolution from Thursday’s agenda that would increase the daily pay substitute teachers receive to $366 — the average daily salary of a certificated staff member. Substitutes typically receive between $115 and $150 per day, according to the resolution.

According  Thompson, district Human Resource Director Coleen Parker followed up with DNTA negotiators stating that the district does not plan to impose an offer if both parties aren’t able to reach a settlement.

“If the district does not impose, they are preventing us from seeing the bargaining process through,” Thompson told the Outpost in an email Tuesday. “This is yet another example of how the district has not been bargaining in good faith.”

Up until Wednesday, DNTA and DNUSD were acting under the plan that the district would impose an offer after the fact finder’s report is official if they weren’t able to reach a settlement, according to Thompson. The bargaining teams met Thursday, but made no progress, she said.

DNTA negotiators also presented the DNUSD Board of Trustees with several proposals on Monday during a closed session meeting, but made no progress, according to Thompson.

“I am personally so disappointed in the district administrators and school board members who are not acting as good stewards of our schools and working with DNTA to reach a settlement,” Thompson told the Outpost.

In a Friday interview with the Outpost, Harris cited Article 4 in the professional agreement between DNUSD and DNTA that states that until the district imposes its last, best and final offer upon certificated staff, the union can’t hold a strike and the district can’t impose a lockout.

Harris also told the Outpost that the district imposes a last, best and final if it is proposing a decrease in salary or health and welfare benefits.

According to DNUSD spokesman Michael Hawkins, the district imposing an offer means that it is done negotiating.

“Imposing is where the district can come in and say, ‘You know what, you guys are going to take this offer and it’s going into your contract,’” Hawkins told the Outpost on Tuesday. “They can force teachers to take an offer at which point that is one of the main outlines in the contract for which (teachers) can strike.”
DNTA’s letter to its members accuse the district of refusing to play fair with the union.

“Last week, for the first time, Jeff Harris announced that the district has no intention of finishing the bargaining process and will not be imposing a last, best and final offer,” the letter states. “The district is acting in bad faith by refusing to finish the bargaining process and they are attempting to prevent a settlement that would help end our teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

Part of what both the district and DNTA is currently trying to resolve is the timeline for when a strike can occur, Gill told the Outpost.

“There’s not a real hard and definite answer to that question, unfortunately, because what will ultimately happen is those arguments will be heard before the Public Employee Relations Board,” Gill said. “If they’re found to be meritorious, they open an immediate window for us to engage in an unfair labor practice strike and that could happen before an impasse is declared in the first place.”

DNTA negotiators have been pressing for a 3.5 percent salary increase and are asking for an increase in the money the district contributes to certificated staff’s health and welfare benefits, according to Thompson.

DNUSD is currently offering certificated staff a 2 percent salary increase with 1 percent being retroactive and added as part of the permanent salary schedule for certificated staff. The other 1 percent would also be retroactive, but would become part of the permanent salary schedule if enrollment stays static, according to Parker.


Factfinder's report



© 2024 Lost Coast Communications Contact: