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Bellingham Technical College classes will continue as contract talks approach resolution

Culinary students Ben Garding, left, Anastasia Lagutochkin and Colin Colin Reed practice making their competition dishes at Bellingham Technical College, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.
Culinary students Ben Garding, left, Anastasia Lagutochkin and Colin Colin Reed practice making their competition dishes at Bellingham Technical College, Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. The Bellingham Herald

Classes at Bellingham Technical College will continue as planned amid negotiations over a new contract between the college and its faculty union.

The parties have reached a “conceptual agreement,” said Marni Mayer, a BTC spokeswoman, adding that the union had sent a letter to college administrators on Tuesday, Sept. 27, pledging not to strike on Wednesday, Sept. 28, as it had decided earlier this month.

The college and the Bellingham Education Association, the union representing the college’s faculty, have been in bargaining talks over BTC’s next faculty employment contract since early 2016.

The talks centered on faculty members’ compensation, workloads and classroom safety, Don Anderson, a union spokesman and BTC welding technology instructor, said Monday, Sept. 26.

Anderson confirmed Tuesday evening that the two groups did come to a preliminary agreement, but could not confirm that a letter had been sent ensuring there would be no strike on Wednesday. A representative from the closed-door bargaining meeting had not yet emerged to give an update, Anderson said at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Still, BTC had notified students on its website and via email that classes would continue – something the college would not have done without assurances in place, Mayer said.

The college also withdrew a complaint for an injunction it had filed against the union in Whatcom County Superior Court on Monday, Mayer said. If approved by a judge, the injunction would have forced faculty back to work.

Mayer said reaching the conceptual agreement would hopefully ease the minds of students who were likely bracing for class interruptions.

“We want to make sure they know that and can come to class as usual and know there won’t be any hiccup in their time here with us,” she said.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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