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San Francisco schools, teachers begin mediated negotiations

By Adam Martin, Bay City News Service

February 24, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - The union representing San Francisco teachers and school district paraprofessionals entered state mediated contract talks with the district today, in the final negotiating process before a possible strike.

The United Educators of San Francisco declared an impasse in contract negotiations Feb. 2 after they could not agree with the district on the percentage by which teacher and staff salaries would increase over the next 18 months.

Negotiators sat down with a state mediator this morning in the Sunset district, said union spokesman Matthew Hardy, to set up ground rules as the first step in the negotiations. The union has eight people at the table, including president Dennis Kelly and elected officers as well as representatives from the rank and file.

The school district is represented by labor relations director Tom Ruiz and an independent lawyer, Hardy said.

"We hope this will be a quick process. We want to get back to focusing on the classroom,'' Hardy said, but he said the union would hold out until their demands are met. He said of recent district negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), "the district took them to the brink of a strike'' before essentially meeting their demands.

"We're focusing on mediation and remain hopeful that we will be able to come to a settlement,'' district spokeswoman Lorna Ho said today. But she did not deem it likely that the district would increase its offer of a 7.5 percent pay raise over the next 18 months to the union's requested 10 percent. At the beginning of negotiations, the union requested a 12 percent raise while the district offered none at all. Since then the district has offered 2 percent, 4 percent and finally 7.5 percent.

"We've been very adamant about the fact that we don't really have funds to up this offer. It's fair to say that if there were any movement at all it would be very little,'' Ho said.

"It's a question of equity for us. We've settled with one union and we have a tentative agreement with another. They're all in line with one another. It's only fair to our employees that we give them all the same thing.''

The district came to a tentative agreement Thursday with the United Administrators of San Francisco, which represents principals and other administrators. In that agreement the union accepted a 7.5 percent raise over 18 months. In December, SEIU maintenance workers ratified a three-year contract with the district that gave them a 4 percent raise and 75 percent of their health care paid.

On the day the union declared the impasse, Kelly said its members had waited too long for a pay raise. "Our people have not received a raise since 2002,'' he said.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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