Union Democrat staff

A strike at Columbia and Modesto Junior colleges was averted Sunday night after negotiators reached a deal, but they did not announce the contract specifics.

A mediator for the stalled contract negotiations between the Yosemite Faculty Association and the Yosemite Community College District recommended an overall salary increase of 8 percent. A joint statement released Sunday night called the report a “useful guide.”

Representatives of the administration did not respond to requests for further comment. Jim Sahlman said the contract was being typed and would be released once the deal is outlined for the union members and the board.

The contract has to be approved by union members and the district board, which likely will take a couple of weeks, the news release stated.

The fact-finding report by an impartial mediator recommended the salary schedule be reduced from 30 steps to 25, which would give faculty at least a 2 percent ongoing increase.

The report recommended faculty would receive retroactive increases of 2 percent to July 1, 2017, 2 percent to July 1, 2018 and a 4 percent increase beginning Tuesday.

The cost of these increases would be about $3.4 million.

In the news release, YCCD Chancellor Henry Yong was quoted as saying, “This groundbreaking agreement will allow us to work together to build a great future for our students.”

Sahlman was quoted as saying, “It’s timely that this is happening right before the new year. We are excited about a fresh start, not only with our contract but with the Yosemite Community College District administration.”

Sahlman said he was pleased about the “new relationships we are forming with the

Administration.”

The three-year bargaining effort had become contentious in recent months, with the union saying the administration was not bargaining in good faith and the college threatening to dock pay or fire teachers who went on strike.

Union members staged a two-day strike just before the end of the semester in December to protest what they considered unfair labor practices.

A work stoppage would have begun Jan. 14, the first day of the spring semester had negotiators not reached an agreement.

Faculty at Modesto Junior College and Columbia College are among the least paid of similar colleges in the region, and the Yosemite Faculty Association has been pressing for an increase that would bring them closer to the middle.

The union reported their salaries are 22 percent below the other schools.

The administration had offered a two-year contract covering 2017-18 and 2018-19, with 2 percent and 4 percent raises.

The report, written by Bonnie Castrey of Huntington Beach, said reaching the median during this bargaining period was impossible because that would mean an increase of at least 12 percent and possibly as high as 20 percent.

Castrey said by law the district must project budgets three years out, and if such an increase was granted that would mean by year three the district would be running a $3 million deficit.

The report also said the two parties should continue working toward faculty pay being at the median rate of similar institutions when the contract ends in June.

The report also said the two parties have been meeting about class size and are close to an agreement.

Yosemite Community College District employs 299 full-time and 426 part-time instructors at Modesto Junior College and Columbia College and has 25,000 students.

The last contract the faculty had ended June 30, 2016. Negotiations reached an impasse in April, which caused the need for a mediator to be appointed from the Public Employment Relations Board.

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