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Plan may save jobs

Non-teaching union is nearing deal to furlough days to avoid 27 layoffs.

May 15, 2010|By Max Zimbert

WEST BURBANK — Administrative assistants and other non-teaching employees at Burbank Unified are close to a deal that would spare 27 people from being laid off in exchange for their union agreeing to five unpaid work furlough days, officials said.

The tentative agreement with the union that represents all non-teaching school workers would save Burbank Unified about $450,000, and keep an additional 13 employees from having their hours reduced, Interim Deputy Supt. Lori Ordway-Peck said.

The Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate 50 part-time positions and reduce the hours for 23 others as the district works to close a $21-million deficit by 2011-12.

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“The board was going to cut more positions,” said Gabe Soumakian, assistant superintendent for human resources. “[The union] came to us proactively to seek bilateral solutions and we appreciate that.”

Local leaders of the California School Employees Assn. did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Ordway-Peck said the union’s action could be a template as the district seeks other concessions in the wake of the state fiscal crisis.

But Burbank Teachers Assn. representatives are not in a rush to accept a pay cut or other concessions, union President Jerry Mullady said.

“We’re real hesitant to do any discussions with them because we’re afraid they’ll slap another impasse again, and really quickly, they could open the contract to a lot of things,” he said.

But district officials said the delay makes matters worse.

“They’ve had plenty of opportunities to show us something in writing, but we have not seen it,” Soumakian said.

Last month, the district filed for impasse — a declaration that negotiations have failed and state intervention is needed. But formal bargaining had not begun, and the filing was withdrawn.

“That impasse really, really, really brings a lack of trust on our part,” Mullady said. “We’re getting pressure from our teachers, the community, to say we need to settle something. We’ll talk, but that impasse really made it impossible to trust the district.”

On Tuesday, board members voted to lay off 67 teachers, but those teachers could still be rehired this summer and into next school year. Many teachers are already penciled in to the master schedule that assigns teachers to classes, Mullady said.

“They are using those teachers as pawns and trying to bully us to the table,” he said. “There’s no need to lay them off. What are they going to do, raise class size to 50?”

Mullady said the district has been unable to guarantee teacher pink slips would be rescinded, and that’s contributed to the union’s reluctance to start formal bargaining before the Oct. 1 deadline. The deal with the union should be ready for board member approval and union ratification by the end of May, Soumakian said.


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