GEB extends contract deadline
by Krystal Paco
Guam - Hundreds of teachers attended last night's Guam Education Board meeting, listening intently and expressing their feelings about failed contract negotiations. It's been a tug-o-war battle between the GEB and the Guam Federation of Teachers since the start of collective bargaining negotiations. Both parties have failed to agree on anything, including a qualified mediator to assist in the endeavor.
At last, however, there is hope for both parties to find compromise.
With their Nnovember 6 deadline looming, the GEB has bought more time to settle contract negotiations with the GFT. It was at last night's board meeting at Inarajan Middle School that member Joe San Agustin motioned to extend the current contract to August 2012, followed by a second motion from Rosie Tainatango and passed unanimously.
According to GFT president Matt Rector, the board's change of heart was a direct result of the union's presence at last night's meeting. He said, "Last night, just about 200 teachers and students showed up to the Guam Education Board meeting to say, 'We want a fair and decent contract.'"
It was during public comments that teachers expressed their disgust with GEB's proposed contract. Rector said, "Teachers were very insulted by it, teachers are educated professionals. They give up tons of their own time and their own money because they love their job and they love their students, and to imply there's something other than that, really, really hurts them."
According to GEB chairman Francis Santos, the new contract deadline is beneficial for all parties involved. "Because the agreement ended on November 6, that's certainly going to fall in the school year that's already in place. And to try to make changes right now, the impact to the schools would be significant, and to the system itself. So that's why we chose August 2012 as the absolute drop-dead date for this current contract," he said.
After last night's motion, both parties appear to be more than happy to return to the negotiating table without a mediator. "Now that this deadline pressure is over, maybe we can get back to where we can come up with a great contract that makes life better for our teachers and students," Rector noted, with Santos adding, "I just hope that our team, together with Mr. Rector and their team work together closely to work in the interest of our students and arrive at an agreement.
Santos says that both teams are scheduled to meet Monday to begin negotiating a new contract that sets the working conditions for teachers.