In the community

No deal yet, but Treasure Valley Community College labor talks to continue

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

ONTARIO – Recall when you mother sent you and your sister to a room to “just work it out” without her interference?

That old approach is the one Treasure Valley Community College administration and the teachers’ union is now taking after more than a year of negotiations failed to produce a new labor contract.

On Friday, college officials and leaders from the Treasure Valley Education Association will again meet. The difference this time will be the people missing –no lawyers for either side will be in the room, no mediators coming up with ideas.

The decision to go it alone comes after a monstrous 18-hour session last Friday and Saturday didn’t get a deal done. With both sides feeling optimistic going into that session, talks again bogged down and ultimately were fruitless.

As the clock ticks closer to some hard decisions, both sides are expressing optimism for Friday’s talks.

To obtain any cost savings towards a $494,000 deficit, the college needs to save money by the start of the spring term. The union looks to protect teachers from a cut in expected pay, increased health insurance costs and new class size minimums for full pay.

If no contract is agreed upon, the college can impose all or part of its own contract. On the other side, the union can call for a strike vote and hit the streets with picket signs.

The talks come on the tail of a Tuesday night meeting that saw the college board authorize college administration to lay off six instructors next fall.

With an overflow crowd filling a lecture hall and two additional rooms in the science building, board members voted 4-2 to proceed with entrenchment. Board members Mark Wettstein, Darlene McConnell, Stephen Crow and Cheryl Cruson voted in favor of authorizing the college to proceed. Board members Roger Findley and John Hall voted no. Chairman John Forsyth didn’t vote.

The vote came after impassioned speeches from alumni, students and teachers, held to a 30-minute time limit. Prior to opening the floor to comments, Wettstein warned those prepared to speak.

“We heard all your stories about the music program last year,” said Wettstein. “It is more important what you have done to save it. I don’t want to hear any more stories tonight.”

Many who spoke expressed outrage and anger over the proposed cuts.

“I am heart broken and angry,” said Jim Schmidt. “You need to look at cutting administrative positions as well.”

Julie White, a Baker resident and parent of a welding student, was offended that the college didn’t tell students of possible program cuts during registration for classes.

“You did not notify us when you took our money,” said White. “My son looked at two other colleges before choosing TVCC. This should have been our decision.”

White informed the board she has filed a complaint with the state against the college over consumer protection violations.

The college said the classes will be retained in one form or another and those facing layoffs will have the opportunity for placement in other areas or as part time employees.

Eddie Alves, vice president of academic affairs, briefed the board to start the meeting.

“We need to maintain the level of service at TVCC,” he said. “To do that, we need to reduce positions from full time to part time.”

Alves went over each of the six positions, explaining the need for cuts in that area and the plans the college has for the program.

Each of the board members thanked all who attended the meeting and spoke.

Findley reminded those in the room of one avenue that could be taken.

“Three of the four that voted to retrenchment are up for re-election next year,” Findley said.