Citrus College Classified Staff Demand Equality, Fairness

Human Resources Technician Karen Giles speaks to the Board of Trustees as lead negotiator Robert Sammis listens Tuesday, July 21. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

The message was clear Tuesday, July 21 at a packed Citrus College Board of Trustees meeting: classified staff is unhappy with ongoing contract negotiations and want that to change immediately.

College negotiators and Citrus College Chapter 101 of the California School Employees Association have been trying to reach an agreement on many aspects for roughly seven months now. While the two sides have made some headway, classified staff still seek parity on other pivotal issues.

Classified employees packed the Tuesday, July 21 Board of Trustees meeting to speak in solidarity, demanding equal treatment and better pay. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Classified employees packed the Tuesday, July 21 Board of Trustees meeting to speak in solidarity, demanding equal treatment and better pay. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Classified staff seeks equal treatment with other campus bargaining units and with other classified employees at surrounding colleges, demanding cost of living increases and contract language that would allow for binding arbitration during a potential dispute.

Both sides tentatively agreed back in May to a cost of living adjustment of 3 percent for 2015-16, 2 percent for 2016-17 and 2 percent for 2017-2018, equal to full-time faculty and adjunct, said Robert Sammis, director of human resources and chief negotiator for Citrus College.

At the Board of Trustees meeting, speaker Cathy Day said that the college is reportedly enjoying a reserve of 17 percent. The last contractual raise, which was 5 percent in 2002, was granted with a 12 percent reserve.

“I cannot believe that maybe you don’t respect the job we do, or how hard we work, but that is the very message I hear as our negotiations continue to be met with the answer of ‘no’,” Day said.

Sammis acknowledges that revenue has increased, but spending has also increased in previous years. The college’s budget expenses for payroll is nearing 90 percent.

“We’re coming out of a horrific time in public education. Community colleges were decimated … we had to cut sections and turn students away. We’re rebuilding, but the funding isn’t unlimited,” Sammis said.

A classified employee shows his support for a fair contract at the Tuesday, July 21 Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

A classified employee shows his support for a fair contract at the Tuesday, July 21 Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Aaron Castrejon.

Regarding arbitration, the current contract only allows for mediation to handle grievances, in which a state mediator helps to resolve issues, but the final review of the issues goes to the college’s Board of Trustees. Classified staff has been unable to get the college to agree on binding arbitration, with the college seeking the status quo.

“We’re not getting any really solid information from the district as to why they’re objecting to the concept of arbitration, whether it would be advisory or binding,” said Andy Sundstrom, labor relations representative for the CSEA. “A governing board has a fiduciary responsibility to the college. If we have an agreement in violation of the contract that has a substantial monetary component to it, our concern is can we get a fair judgement.”

Sammis said that the college believes that mediation has worked well in the past and would like to continue to work with that process.

“In the last eight years, we have not had a grievance go to the Board of Trustees,” Sammis said.

Classified also seeks longevity pay on par with the college’s confidential staff and supervisors, both groups receive 5 percent longevity rises. Classified receives half of that.

“We’re not asking for anything extraordinary,” said Robert Coutts, president of Citrus Chapter 101, in a written statement. “Without us, the college would come to a halt. The services we provide to the students are very important and we want the college to acknowledge that by giving us a fair contract.”

While both sides have yet to reach impasse, but that path may be close, Sundstrom said.

Sammis remains positive that an agreement can be reached.

“We still have a lot of negotiating to do. The process of negotiation is reaching compromises, but eventually there will be an agreement,” Sammis said.

Both sides will meet again Aug. 10.

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