DOE cancels all negotiations with GFT
by Krystal Paco
Guam - The Guam Education Board and the Guam Federation of Teachers are now at a standstill with collective bargaining negotiations. The clock is ticking for the two organizations to come to a contract agreement.
Effective Tuesday, the Department of Education announced ceasing of all negotiations that set the working conditions for teachers with the GFT. According to GEB member Barry Mead, the current contract keeps the board from acting as the policymaking authority of the Government of Guam's largest agency.
"We're not going to give up to the union what is by law the rights and responsibilities of the board which is to make policies," he detailed. "The current contract costs the department conservatively $5 million a year in money it doesn't need to spend until the union is willing to understand or to realize that the Guam Education Board is the policy-setting authority for the department. We aren't going to negotiate."
Union president Matt Rector said, "I have no idea how it keeps the board from doing their job or how it costs them millions of dollars."
According to Mead, the board will not return to the negotiating table until a mediator from the U.S. Department of Labor is named but rector objects to the inconvenience and cost to bring one from off-island. "What the mediator would do is ensure that everybody plays by the rules - everyone follows the ground rules and ensure that everyone negotiates in a manner that's professional," Mead said.
Rector noted, "We don't mind having a mediator; as a matter of fact, we already agreed to it…we have lots of skilled and talented mediators right here on Guam that are able and willing to do the job."
In the meantime, time continues to run as the current collective bargaining agreement expires November 6. Failure to renew or extend the contract could result in DOE's request to the Department of Administration to decertify the GFT as a union. It could also mean GFT members could withdraw from the union and stop paying dues.
Lastly, it opens the door for a competing union or employee organization to represent teachers. Mead said, "There has to be a contract that allows for the department to do what it needs to do, not one that ties the board's hands from making policies. We hope they will (a) extend the current CBA so we can work this stuff out, and (b) send a team to the table that's ready to negotiate."