Negotiations Update Spring 2014
Right after New Year's Day, most SRJC faculty start focusing on the beginning of another spring semester, but for those of us hanging around the AFA office in January, there's another important event—the unveiling of the Governor's State budget proposal for the upcoming year. Last year, after years of sobering January budget rollouts, there was cause to smile meekly; this year, perhaps there's reason to grin. The upturn in State revenue for California community colleges (CCC) that started last year is accelerating. This year's proposed increase in State CCC funding, 21%, is the largest in decades.
Of the $1.3 billion in proposed CCC revenue increases for 2014-15, the Governor has earmarked $592 million to eliminate what he calls the "wall of debt," the existing deferrals of payments to CCC's started in the Schwarzenegger years. Another $278 million would go to increase the CCC unrestricted general funds, including a 0.86% cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) and up to 3.0% additional funding for those colleges that are able to increase FTES in 2013-14. Another $175 million would be applied to CCC maintenance and equipment. Most of the remaining balance of the increase would be applied to Student Success and other CCC programs.
A lot can happen—both good and bad—in the five months between January when the budget is proposed by the Governor and June when the budget is approved by the Legislature. Presently, AFA is working with FACCC and CCCI in advocating the increase of the proposed 0.86% COLA for 2014-15 and the restoration of State funding for the three part-time faculty salary and benefits categorical programs, which were slashed by 62% in 2010. (Visit the AFA advocacy page at www.afa-srjc.org/ to see how you can help.)
Salary and Benefits
With a 5.3% salary increase in 2013-14, SRJC faculty made significant progress in returning to Rank Ten. For the first time in many years, Rank Ten is now within reach. Getting back to Rank Ten in 2014-15, assuming that COLA remains at 0.86%, will require a 2.6% (approximately $1.2 million) overall increase in salaries. (As in 2013-14, actual increases will vary slightly by salary schedule step.)
There's also reason to be optimistic about benefits in 2014-15. AFA came out of last spring's negotiations with significant protections against faculty medical benefits cost increases in the near future. If medical benefits cost increases next year are no worse than usual, it's likely that the current faculty benefits plans will continue in 2014-15 with no additional costs borne directly by faculty members.
Even with the additional State revenue, reaching an agreement this spring on salary and benefits for 2014-15 will not be easy. As a result of the strategic decisions made during the last five years of cutbacks, the District now finds itself in a weakened position for earning the 3.0% growth funding from the State in 2014-15. And, as usual, the current Board of Trustees and administrators must be regularly reminded of the District's long-standing commitment to provide competitive salaries, wages and benefits to its adjunct and contract faculty; in this decade's unprecedented level of faculty hiring at SRJC, not honoring this commitment places SRJC's "Legacy of Excellence" in great jeopardy.
In the previous Negotiations Update (www.santarosa.edu/afa/Neg/Neg_F13.pdf), I reported that AFA had requested faculty chairs to initiate discussions in their departments with the goal of each department taking a position on whether the College should implement one of the calendar models put forward in the Compressed Calendar Task Force final report.
Over the last three months, these discussions have been taking place in the departments. In the end, six departments have taken a position for implementation (this count includes those departments who voiced support in Spring 2012), and twenty-five departments either have taken a position against implementation or have taken no position.
AFA's position has always been that a clear consensus of the faculty in favor of the compressed calendar would be necessary in order to begin negotiations with the District. In 2012, the Academic Senate chose to conclude its role in the college-wide discussion without taking a position. The Department Chair Council has discussed the Compressed Calendar option a number of times but has not taken a position. Now, with the departments' input last month, it seems reasonable to assume that no such consensus exists among faculty.
It's also been AFA's intention to conclude the compressed calendar issue this academic year. Last month, this matter was discussed at the AFA Executive Council meeting. After reviewing the departments' input and upon my recommendation, the Council has decided to no longer pursue the implementation of a compressed academic calendar at SRJC. The AFA negotiations team also discussed the matter with the District negotiations team, and the District team concurred.
On behalf of all faculty, I wish to express our appreciation for all of our colleagues who served on the various committees during the consideration of the compressed calendar option. In particular, I would like to recognize Janet McCulloch whose idea began the process in 2009 and who, as CCNTF co-chair, produced the final report in 2013; and Mary Pierce, who agreed to chair the original Senate/AFA Task Force, provided expert guidance to the early process, and produced a large part of the initial research. Thank you both.
An account of the Compressed Calendar proceedings over the past four years is available at www.santarosa.edu/afa/senate_home.shtml.
Also on the Negotiations Table. . .
• Due Process. AFA continues its attempt to engage the District in a timely negotiation of a faculty due-process contract article. This negotiation has stretched on for nearly three years now. Despite this glacial pace of progress, the AFA team hopes to wrap up discussions this semester.
• Hourly Assignments. AFA's interests in revising Article 16 are (a) protecting current reassignment rights for hourly faculty, (b) making the department assignment process simpler and more transparent, and (c) providing more security to hourly faculty. A task force team of contract and adjunct faculty, chaired by AFA President Julie Thompson, is working with the District on this revision.
• Class Size. This negotiation is entering its final phase after over two years. AFA has interests in defining a transparent method for determining maximum class size and in providing fair compensation and support for faculty in large and medium-large lecture assignments.
• Chairs and Coordinators. AFA and the District agreed to revise the job duties for both chairs and faculty coordinators and to place language into Article 13 of the Contract on determining reassigned time for these positions.
• Lab and Online Workload. AFA and the District are working on compensation for lab courses that require significant preparation and assessment and working on accessibility support for online instructors.
As negotiations progress this year, you will be receiving more updates. Feel free contact the AFA office or email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have comments or questions on negotiation issues.