Faculty salary negotiations freeze

Jessica Taylor

Negotiations on faculty salary contracts are stalled after the March 24 Board of Trustees meeting.

Some faculty members met at Boosters restaurant before the meeting to unite forces and discuss what has been talked about in previous Negotiation Team meetings.

“It’s nice to meet informally,” said Ken Woodward, president of the Faculty Association. “We’re always in the classroom.”

Negotiations began last May for the upcoming contracts with the hopes that faculty would be properly compensated for extra work spent outside of the classroom.

“The district relies on staff for legally required tasks that we aren’t compensated for,” said Lewis Long, a member of the Negotiation team. “We just want to remind the Board how much volunteer work we do above and beyond the 36 contractual hours required of us.”

Faculty insists they are not asking for a raise, but rather a cost of living adjustment (COLA). The board has reported that the district’s average salary rate is fourth in the state, however the figures do not properly represent the median pay scale.

“There are so many faculty at the top of the pay schedule and many that are ready to retire,” Long said. “When you actually look at the faculty in the 6-12 pay schedule, we are around 18th in the state.”

Faculty members were hoping that in closed session the Board would direct their own negotiating team in a direction to meet the proposal presented.

Faculty has asked for COLA plus eight percent for the first year, and COLA the following two years.

“We really don’t have a clue what will happen now,” said Bill Hewitt, IVC instructor and member of the Board of Consultation for the state Chancellor. “The Vice Chancellor said that COLA plus eight is too expensive so we asked what they can afford. We think they’re planning a counter proposal to be given us in the next week.”

Board President Donald Wagner declined to comment on closed session agenda.

However, the district has argued in the past that COLA is a way of keeping up on inflation and is really just a cost of living adjustment for the year.

“The district’s own argument is that COLA is just keeping level on par with buying power,” Hewitt said. “To not even give us COLA would be contradicting their own argument.

The proposals for salaries include not only full-time faculty, but part-time faculty salaries which are very low compared to the rest of the state.

“Given the pay schedule in the district we have a hard time retaining part-time faculty members,” Woodward said.

“People who have just finished their masters degrees work long enough here to gain experience and then go somewhere else where the pay is better,” Long said.

Pressure is on to resolve negotiations quickly, as the end of the fiscal year is approaching and the district needs to comply with what is known as the 50percent Law, where 50percent of the district’s money must be spent on instructor salaries Figures for salaries have already been counted in the budget and if negotiations don’t happen in a timely manner, the district will lose money.

“With the number of faculty retiring, it would put us far behind the 50 percent,” Long said. “Like many districts, we have been right at 50 percent, but we have been dipping closer and closer.”

Huge consequences could ensue if the school falls under the 50 percent limit.

A trust account would have to be created to cover the amount of money under the 50 percent and that would then be sent to the state chancellor’s office for safekeeping.

The district would then have two years to not only make it back to the 50percent mark, but also compensate for the year that the mark was not made or else forfeit that money to the state.

This year if the district is under by 4 or 5 percent, it could mean around $4 million in the trust fund.

“If we have to create an impound [trust] account, the money comes from students,” Hewitt said. “Because we collect more in property taxes than other counties, money for the trust fund would come out of student tuition.”

Faculty talk had indicated that perhaps there would be a work slow-down to show the district just how valuable the extra time is that instructors offer.

“At this point, we’ve decided that we’re more interested in student success than work slowdown,” Hewitt said. “We believe the students must prevail above all, so in good faith we are going to continue to negotiate and hope their proposal will be fair and equitable.”

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