AFA and District at impasse over faculty pay

Roberta MacIntyre, Staff Writer

Disagreements over salaries have resulted in protracted labor negotiations between the All Faculty Association (AFA) and the Sonoma County Junior College District after the district filed paperwork with the California Public Employment Relations Board seeking resolution assistance, Dec. 1.

According to the AFA, the the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has determined the two entities to be at an impasse.

PERB is the State agency responsible for enforcing the collective bargaining laws covering employees of public schools and community colleges

According to the AFA, the district’s filing by the district with the PERB determination came as a big surprise to the AFA negotiating team.

Karen Frindell Teuscher, science instructor and AFA president, said the next step is to have a mediator assist with the negotiations.

“If it is determined that an impasse exists, it goes to mediation and then the mediator will help the two parties come to a resolution of their differences,” said Deirdre Frontczak, philosophy instructor and AFA council member.

The AFA and the district have been in negotiations since September 2016. The current contract ended in June 2017 so the faculty have been working without a contract for nearly six-months.

“This is unique,” said Amy Merkel, full-time SRJC counselor and Transfer Center director at. “Usually we have a contract before graduation.”

Merkel received a huge round of applause at the Nov. 14 Board of Trustees meeting after she expressed her concerns over negotiations between the district and the AFA during the public comments period.

She fears if the district’s proposal of a 1.5 percent pay cut comes to fruition, the college wouldn’t be able to recruit and retain quality staff.

Rather than utilizing an established salary-setting methodology known as Rank-10, the administration asked employees to return to a 2016-17 salary schedule,  Merkel said.

The AFA argues the district needs to establish the Rank-10 pay methodology, which bases faculty compensation on the 10th highest paying California community college,  to recruit and retain high-caliber faculty upon which the college has built its reputation. “To take a pay cut when top administrators have seen raises of about 30 percent since 2014 would be absurd,” Merkel said.

Al Maggini and Larry Bertolini, former members of the Board of Trustees, wanted to pay SRJC faculty as much as the highest paid California community college faculty, but the district couldn’t afford to.

Maggie Fishman, president of the Board of Trustees, said she couldn’t comment on the negotiations because they are still in progress.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll reach a settlement that works for everybody,” Fishman said.

According to an article on the AFA website, “The Rank-10 Covenant-Why it Matters,” by SRJC Librarian Will Baty, the Rank-10 methodology was established by former members of the Board of Trustees.

The article also states that the Rank-10 utilizes a quantitative, transparent measurement based on statewide salary data and allows SRJC to remain competitive with other colleges as it recruits faculty members.

According to the 2017 AFA Salary Study Summary available on the AFA website, which uses the Rank-10 Methodology, the 2017-18 salary schedule indicates a salary increase for full-time facility between 3.33-3.78 percent, depending on their employment status. This includes a cost of living allowance (COLA) of 1.48 percent.

Another sticking point for the AFA is the district’s proposal to go from a three-year contract to a one-year contract. Merkel is concerned about being six-months into negotiations for a one-year contract.

“To negotiate a one-year contract when they’re just going to have to go back to the table in a few months to negotiate next year’s contract is strange but that’s what’s happening,” Merkel said.

Douglas Roberts, senior vice president of finace and member of the District Negotiating Team said in a Dec. 1 email that the proposed compensation increase was higher than what SEIU negotiated.

“It is our sincere hope that the mediation process will assist us in reaching an agreement,” Roberts said.