AFA faculty to vote on controversial $3 million pay cut

Benjamin Gruey, Staff Writer

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Santa Rosa Junior College’s faculty union, the All Faculty Association (AFA), and the district negotiated $3.08 million in savings for SRJC in the face of a $6.2 million shortfall for the 2010/2011 year. Now the AFA members must vote on the salary changes, called a Tentative Agreement (TA), for them to be ratified.

Pay parity between full-time and part-time (adjunct) faculty has been an issue since the state cut funding to adjuncts. In addition, many faculty are upset over the possibility of the college cutting 500 sections for the Spring 2011 semester if they don’t pass the TA.

An Aug. 19 e-mail sent to all faculty from AFA, signed by AFA President Warren Ruud, and AFA Chief Negotiator Ann Herbst, states the TA will preserve 500 sections of classes for SRJC students and protect more than 300 adjunct jobs. The wording has many faculty, adjunct and full-timers, feeling threatened. Some say if they vote no, they will be responsible for killing jobs and classes.

“The district did threaten to cut 500 sections if the contract was not approved, and I believe this is a scare tactic to bully adjuncts into voting for the contract,” said Ed Sorensen, an adjunct economics instructor. Sorensen doesn’t believe the district would carry through with its threat but would be responsible and sit back down at the bargaining table.

Since 2002 when SRJC elected to receive categorical funding to bring adjunct pay up to parity with full-time faculty, extra funds from the state legislature have been used to increase adjuncts’ salary. In the same year, SRJC also elected to enroll in the Adjunct Medical Benefits Program (AMBP), which covers 50 percent of an eligible adjunct’s premium.

In September 2009 the state government cut both programs by 62 percent. Several other programs simultaneously incurred 62 percent cuts, including Disability Resource Development (DRD) and Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS), Ruud said. Unlike the adjunct pay parity program, the DRD and EOPS cuts affected their entire budgets.

The 62 percent cut to the categorical funds in 2009 would have translated to a 12 percent cut to adjuncts. AFA negotiated with the district a 6.8 percent pay cut in spring 2010, a 6.87 percent cut in summer 2010 and a “carryover” into the 2010/2011 school year of 1.2 percent for the fall 2010 semester. The carryover has been re-negotiated to .116 percent in the fall and .06 percent for the year.

“What is missing from the contract revisions,” Sorensen said, “is any real effort at shared sacrifice.” He points out adjuncts are being asked to take the largest salary cut, percentage wise, of any employee group. He said, they also make significantly less than full-time faculty, have few job guarantees and receive a meager benefits package.

“Even if the regular faculty agreed to more balanced cuts for just one year,” Sorensen said, “it would signal [they] are willing to do their fair share out of a sense of collegiality and common sacrifice.” The SEIU placed a sunset provision in their contract revision.

AFA President Ruud said AFA negotiators tried to get the cut spread across all faculty, even though adjuncts benefited most from the raise. “To come back from Christmas and find that your paycheck is 10-12 percent lighter, that’s tough to take,” he said.

The state budget for 2010/2011 included another 62 percent cut to the adjunct pay parity program, which translated to a 4.16 percent cut. The negotiation team did get “a very small amount” of that cut, 1.2 percent, spread out to full-time faculty. But because of the way the numbers worked out, it wasn’t even a quarter of the cut, Ruud said. The district didn’t go for full-time faculty sharing that cut because “The Board [of Trustees’] feeling is that they wanted to preserve Rank 10,” Rudd said.

Rank 10 is the salary target for SRJC. The district wants to pull full-time faculty salaries up to tenth best of all community colleges in the state.

In 2002 when SRJC signed up for this pay parity program, SRJC defined parity pay for adjuncts to be 86.5 percent of a full-time faculty member’s equivalent-load salary. All districts were allowed to designate their own number for parity pay, and SRJC picked the highest possible number, Ruud said. “One reason for this is philosophically we believe you should get paid exactly what someone else gets paid,” he said.

Ruud said defining parity pay at 86.5 percent allowed SRJC to continue to get money as the state pushed more money into the program because the state’s goal was to get everyone at parity pay as their district defined it.

Some schools picked 60 percent to be parity pay. When their part-time faculty were paid 60 percent of an equivalent full-time faculty’s salary, they stopped increasing it.

An additional cut to adjuncts is a two percent cut for Adjunct Medical Benefits Program (AMBP), which the adjunct faculty voted to take. SRJC is one of about 20 of California’s 72 community college districts that signed on to the $1 million program to get adjunct faculty healthcare. The program covers 50 percent of an eligible adjunct’s healthcare premium and when it started in 2001 at SRJC, used tens of thousands of dollars. The original $1 million has never been increased to reflect cost of living expenses or rises in healthcare costs. The program now costs more than $600,000 at SRJC alone per year.

AFA has kept the program running at SRJC by moving money from other places, like not initiating any sabbaticals this year for the full-time faculty. Ruud said 15-20 faculty members didn’t get to go on sabbatical so the program could be funded.

Now the program is being moved to the adjuncts, who voted to pay for its continued operation.

As of fall 2009, before all the big cuts happened, out of the 72 community college districts in California, SRJC salaries were ranked as follows:

 

8 – Adjuncts

23 – Full-time

44 – Management

Ruud pointed out there has been an asymmetric argument, in which two sides look past each other. On the one hand, when it comes to pay parity, adjuncts look around and say, “I’m not getting paid as much as someone else doing the exact same job as me, and it’s in my contract that I should be.”

On the other hand, the Board of Trustees is saying adjuncts are doing much better than our other employee groups. “We’ve always had that little problem,” Ruud said, “everyone looking past each other on that.”

In addition to this cut, adjuncts are subject to the pay cuts that all faculty take: a two percent salary reduction from the state, which could be increased to 2.96 percent, and a 1.13 percent cut through furloughs.

Furloughs in the 2010/2011 school year will be taken on the district-designated Activities Day, and March 25 and 28, which are each half days of non-institutional college service.

Full-time faculty are now covering some of their own healthcare premium increases, which AFA negotiated and translates to approximately four percent of the total premium. The district will take out between $17 and $66 for their healthcare, as a pre-tax payroll deduction, depending on family size and plan provider.

The AFA Negotiations Team came to these agreements for cuts throughout the 2009/2010 school year in response to a projected shortfall of $6-8 million for the 2010/2011 year. The agreements are bundled throughout the year in Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and now all the MOUs are compiled into the Tentative Agreement (TA).

The TA must pass a vote by the members of AFA, or the district and AFA must return to negotiations before sending a new agreement to the AFA members for voting
.

On Aug. 25, AFA held a meeting for all faculty to ask questions and voice concerns about the TA. AFA’s Chief Negotiator Herbst gave a 45-minute presentation on the major points of the TA, followed by a 60-minute question and answer session. “Compared to the last three AFA General Meetings,” Ruud said, “this meeting’s tone was much more civil and respectful.” He also said of those faculty who expressed an opinion, almost all said they support the TA.

Since the meeting the faculty listserv has hosted many e-mails questioning the assumed threat of losing 500 sections and 300 adjunct jobs, as well as the comparison of adjunct to full-time cuts. “Janitors, administrative assistants, and your office manager are being asked to give back more and they are already paid significantly less than regular faculty,” Sorensen said in an e-mail to all faculty. “Where is the fairness in that?”

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