Both sides agree, close

With the spring term quickly approaching, the college and the teachers are scheduled to again meet on Tuesday. (The Enterprise/John L. Braese)

ONTARIO – After more than a year of talks and meetings, the union representing teachers and the administrators at Treasure Valley Community College have finally agreed upon one item — the two sides are close to a compromise that would lead to a new pay contract.

“We are making progress and being face to face has been very productive,” said Dennis Gill, English professor at the college and a member of the negotiating team for the Treasure Valley Education Association. “If we would have done it this way before, meeting face to face with administration, this thing would be over now.”

Dana Young, college president, agreed Friday with her counterpart’s statement for the most part.

“We are really close,” said Young. “We are working on language in the contract. We are working out some final details, but we should have something by the 12th of this month at the latest.”

The two sides have been meeting in negotiations or mediation since last February and kept going after the current labor contract expired in July. At the heart of the discussion is the college’s need to cut spending by almost $500,000, including cost savings in the spring term, because enrollment continues to drop at the Ontario college.

Talks have bogged down over administration proposals to get savings by boosting class loads for instructors and reducing pay for smaller classes. The union, representing 36 instructors, has doubted the college’s financial alarm.

Until recently, the two sides were counting on state mediators to help them find a way to a bargain. But that proved to backfire recently, when a mediator’s proposal drove the two parties farther apart, raising the specter of a strike by the instructors.

“I think things were lost in translation before when we were not in the same room,” Gill said. “I think both sides understand the other’s views now.”

Last Friday, they tried a new approach – just union and college officials sitting down, without lawyers and without mediators. They met again last Tuesday and will meet again next Tuesday.

“I would say we are right there in coming to a final agreement,” Young said.

Even if the both sides reach an agreement, there is still some work to close the deal. Young will need to gain college board approval and the union will need to faculty approval.

John L. Braese: [email protected]; 541-473-3377. Twitter: @malheurnews.