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SMC Teachers Stuck in Contract Dispute

By Ann K. Williams, Staff Writer

November 16 -- Disgruntled Santa Monica College faculty are picketing for higher pay this week, conspicuously playing for the attention of the hundreds who have been coming to the school's gym to see the finalists in the college’s search for its next president.

The teachers, who have been in negotiations with the college since their contract expired 15 months ago, are complaining that the pay raise they are being offered is too little, too late.

“We’re letting everyone know that we’re stuck in negotiation,” explained Lantz Simpson, President of the Santa Monica College Faculty Association, who was holding a sign that read “Settle a fair faculty contract.”

In January, 2005, college administrators received a 2 percent cost of living (COLA) increase which will be followed by a 3.5 percent increase in January, 2006, according to chief faculty negotiator Mitra Moassessi.

But under the college's proposal, the teachers will get just one COLA increase of 3.6 percent, and not until the 2006 Spring quarter, Moassessi said.

Moassessi accused college officials of stalling.

“Every time the issue of salary came up,” Moassessi said, the faculty were told “well, let’s wait for the budget.”

Meanwhile, the college has hired a Napa Valley attorney, Larry Frierson, to represent their interests, Simpson said. “They’ve paid a fortune on him, flying him down here,” he said.

While College Board members said they cannot comment in any detail on the negotiations, Board member Susan Aminoff felt optimistic that a resolution can be reached.

“We can both understand that negotiations are sensitive and confidential,” Aminoff told the Lookout. “Having said that, I can say that we are attempting to compensate our very terrific faculty while balancing our fiscal responsibilities to the institution.”

Aminoff characterized the situation as a negotation, not a conflict, and said that the visiting candidates for president were struck by the “extremely respectful” behavior of the faculty.

Faculty likewise played down the disagreement.

The dispute is far from a strike, explained Simpson. “We have to legally wait until the district imposes a contract before we can go on strike,” he said.

“We’re not officially at impasse yet,” Simpson said, and it would take from six to nine months after that happened before there could be any possibility of a strike.

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