Contract talks for TVCC faculty in mediation as pay raises for instructors remain a sticking point

ONTARIO — Contract negotiations between Treasure Valley Community College administrators and the faculty union have gone to mediation. 

Pay raises are the main sticking point as the college’s teachers have not had a salary increase in five years. 

Darin Bell, a business instructor who is the Treasure Valley Education Association president, said mediation is a “step in the process” and that salary is always the most challenging part of negotiations. This negotiation will cover 31 faculty members.

TVCC’s administration and faculty union, who last signed a contract in 2018, have been in negotiations since January. The faculty union and the college’s administration have declined to comment on the specifics of the negotiations. The union will not say what it has asked for and the college will not say what it has offered. 

Bell said that while other departments had salary increases, pay for faculty had flattened. He said the only salary bumps the faculty has seen over the years were COVID-related stipends for teaching during the height of the pandemic. 

Nonetheless, he said the contract negotiations had been going well. Bell said at the October TVCC Board of Education meeting that the talks were progressing and “near their end.” 

However, both sides decided to go into meditation in mid-October and have since met with the mediator twice. 

“I believed that if the parties continued in a good faith effort that an agreement could have been reached,” Bell said. 

Bell said he still believes both sides can agree without escalating the process.

“We ultimately are all on the same team and all want our students to succeed in the classroom and beyond.” Bell said. 

Abby Lee, TVCC associate vice president of communications, said both sides are getting close. 

“We feel like we understand each other’s views,” Lee said. 

She said the college has to consider all of the other costs of running the college and ensuring the college can afford any salary increases. 

“(TVCC) does not want to ever be in a position it would have to upend the stability of the college,” she said. “We’re always going to be cautious about promising more than we can deliver.”

How mediation works

When a public agency and a union fail to agree on a collective bargaining agreement after 150 days, state law allows either side to request mediation through the Oregon Employment Relations Board. The state then dispatches a mediator. While the mediator cannot impose a settlement, they do help facilitate the process. 

If no agreement is reached in mediation, either side can call for an impasse, where a final offer is made. At that point, a labor organization can go on strike. 

Lee said Wednesday, Nov. 23, that the faculty union and administration met informally and that the negotiations will pick back up the week of Dec. 13.

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.