Bellingham Technical College will hold classes as planned for the foreseeable future as negotiations with the faculty union continue, college spokeswoman Marni Mayer said Wednesday, Sept. 28.
The talks between the college and the Bellingham Education Association, the faculty union, over the faculty’s next contract began in early 2016. As negotiations lagged, the union voted earlier this month to begin striking Wednesday if a resolution was not reached.
The college and the union announced Tuesday that it had come to a conceptual agreement, thereby averting a strike, and were working toward a formal resolution. But the talks apparently unraveled by Tuesday evening.
Don Anderson, a union spokesman and BTC instructor of welding technology, said in a phone message at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday that the college had inserted deal-breaking language into the contract at the last minute.
“We had agreed to every item on the contract except for this last thing and it was a piece that wasn’t in the bargaining over the last week or so,” Anderson said in the message. “We thought that was very unfair of them.”
The union, Anderson added, was in a “holding pattern” after the development. Anderson did not return messages requesting further comment on Wednesday.
Mayer said Wednesday morning the disputed language covers the faculty’s grievance procedure, but didn’t know specifics. The language had been on the table since the talks began, she added, but wasn’t the main focus recently.
College administrators, Mayer said, had offered to go back to the negotiation table, but had not heard from the union’s bargaining team as of Wednesday morning. The union had told administrators it would give them three days’ notice if they decided to strike after all, Mayer said, adding that notice had not come as of Wednesday morning.
Administrators remained hopeful that a resolution would pan out soon, she added.
“We’re really feeling positive that all other elements were tentatively agreed on,” Mayer said. “On this one little thing, with continued efforts, we feel it can be resolved.”