Divided faculty at Treasure Valley Community Valley says yes to a new pay deal

ONTARIO – Treasure Valley Community College faculty has voted to approve a new labor contract. One faculty member reported the vote was close — 20-16 in favor of signing the new deal.

Word of the ratification came late Tuesday afternoon. The college board is expected to approve the agreement at its meeting Tuesday night, ending more than a year of discord over pay, class size and other contract issues.

The draft agreement was distributed to faculty members last week after a final round of negotiations between the faculty union and college administrators.

College officials and union leaders have refused to release terms of the contract even though bargaining teams struck their deal last week.

Officials at Treasure Valley Community College previously said that contracts that come out of mediation could be withheld from the public. One official also cited as possible legal authority to withhold the document a state law intended to protect confidential informants.

The Treasure Valley Education Association, the faculty union, also declined provide the document before the vote. Dennis Gill, a college instructor and union president, said the secrecy was needed to guard against “outside influence.”

The two sides have been talking about a new contract for more than a year. The contract expired last July but the 40 faculty members in the union continued to receive pay and benefits under the expired terms, including pay raises. State mediators were brought in, and then administrators and instructors decided to negotiate without mediators or attorneys.

The labor talks took a toll within the union. Gerry Hampshire, president when negotiations started, resigned abruptly with sharp words for his successor.

Dana Young, college president, insisted earlier that any new contract would need to bring down labor costs. The college is already cutting spending because of enrollment declines now in the seventh straight year.

During the impasse, Young also warned the union that she would invoke a state law that allowed the college to simply impose a new contract. But the union then would have had the right to strike.

Young said the college needs a new contract in place by the start of spring term, which starts April 2, to get savings the rest of the current budget year. Young and Gill last Thursday signed a side agreement, delaying until this Thursday a 2.5 percent pay raise for some faculty. The union had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state, accusing the college of illegally withholding the raise.

That side agreement said a new contract “is set to go before the TVCC Board of Education and the TVEA membership for ratification.”

The votes on the contract come just days after college officials announced they are terminating six instructors and accepting the resignation of a seventh. They did so under a process called “retrenchment,” which provides for firing instructors otherwise protected by tenure. College officials said the layoffs would help cut costs in the new budget year, which starts July 1.