BHUSD calls an impasse on negotiations with teachers’ union

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Evan Minniti staff writer

For more than three weeks, the BHUSD has been at an impasse over contract negotiations with the Beverly Hills Education Association (BHEA), the teachers’ union, that started almost a year ago. Personal Employee Relations Board (PERB) has been called in to settle the issue. 

The district wants to scrap the salary formula, which was put in place in 2014 and in which teachers receive a raise depending on the value of Beverly Hills property taxes. This opposes the BHEA’s goal of keeping salary formula in order to make sure Beverly Hills has the best paid teachers in Los Angeles County.

Chief BHEA negotiator Gregg Riesenberg has said that the District would only settle for scrapping the formula and ignored BHEA’s proposed alternatives.

“What led to the impasse is that the District, in our negotiation sessions, had one proposal and were not willing to move from that proposal,” Riesenberg said. “We as the union gave them many options. We were doing what is called interest based bargaining. We put forth many options, but the District only had one. That’s all they had and they wouldn’t move from it. That’s how we got to where we are today.”

Luke Pavone, the director of human resources for the BHUSD, acted as a negotiator for the District. Pavone has defended the District’s actions as “tough decisions” that have to be made.

“This process actually started last spring, April or May. The District was very well aware of the financial concerns coming from the next few years,” Pavone said. “[The impasse] wasn’t something that just occured. The District was very well aware of financial concerns going in. This is why they had a very hard stance on what they were able to offer [to BHEA].”

BHEA President Telly Tse doesn’t believe the District is interested in bargaining or finding a common solution.

“You know, in bargaining, everyone moves a little bit. They haven’t moved, whereas we’ve made movement. So the reason why we’re at impasse is because the District is unwilling to move from that original position and we’re at a different point, so here we are,” Tse said.

Pavone explained that the District had offered to increase wages (from about 2.5 percent to 3 percent) and healthcare benefits for the next three years in exchange for scrapping the salary formula.

“[The District] has been negotiating faithfully within the parameters of our financial outlook,” Pavone said.

Riesenberg explained that BHEA would agree to scrapping the formula if teachers received a 6 percent raise for the next three years.

“You have to at least double it in order to make us want to get out of the formula. That would get us to our goal of where we want to be and then we will take our chances in the future of when we get our next raise,” Riesenberg said.

Pavone doubts that the current BHUSD budget can sustain what the BHEA proposes. Pavone even suspects that PERB will say that the original BHUSD offers to BHEA are financially untenable.

“[PERB] will assign a mutual mediator for us. They will look at all the work we have done up until this point and they will look at what BHUSD is proposing. They will look at what BHEA/CTA (California Teachers Association) are proposing,” Pavone explained. “We like this process, I don’t think it hurts at all. It’s just a neutral individual that’s gonna take a look and say, ‘[BHUSD’s] financials are right, this is what they can offer.’ They might even say that [our offer to BHEA] is unsustainable. They might say, ‘Go back.’”

Tse says that the BHEA is still willing to negotiate a common path out of the impasse.

“Now, we’re still willing to sit down with the District and go over things and there are still other areas besides salary that we should be able to negotiate, but they don’t want to talk about that either. They just want to go to [an] impasse,” Tse said.

Former BHEA president Steve Taylor worries that the relationship between BHEA and the BHUSD is souring as a result of the impasse, and fears a return to a previous period that lasted from 1989 to 2000 where no progress could be made.

“There was very acrimonious and contentious [relations between BHEA and the BHUSD],” Taylor said. “The morale was horrific in getting any type of raise, getting any type of collaboration with the District was just a struggle…the way things are, we are headed back to that contentious period of time.”

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