Faculty okays new contract, COLA increase

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COLA REFILL — Members of the faculty union demonstrate for a Cost Of Living Adjustment during negotiations with college administrators. Faculty agreed to a 1.57 percent COLA bump. (clockwise from top) Deana Alonso-Post and Angelina Stuart. Jordan Mills, Andrew Rempt and Eric Maag. Andrew Rempt. Photos by Serina Duarte

COLA REFILL — Members of the faculty union demonstrate for a Cost Of Living Adjustment during negotiations with college administrators. Faculty agreed to a 1.57 percent COLA bump. (clockwise from top) Deana Alonso-Post and Angelina Stuart. Jordan Mills, Andrew Rempt and Eric Maag. Andrew Rempt.
Photos by Serina Duarte

An often-tense 18 months of labor negotiations ended with a new deal for Southwestern College faculty when its representatives accepted a 1.57 Cost of Living Adjustment. Faculty were initially asked to take a five percent pay cut, but an improved California budget turned a sizable give back into a small raise.

Faculty are expected to vote to ratify the contract, according to Professor of Communication Eric Maag, president of the Southwestern College Education Association.

Acting SWC Vice President of Human Resources Lynn Solomita said the district will also add  $400,000 to the employee health, welfare and benefits fund, boosting it to $1.2 million.

Some employees will enjoy a smaller monthly healthcare premium, she said.

Other changes to the collective bargaining agreement include new rules to allow faculty members to use campus mailboxes for a wider range of purposes, a maximum five-day leave of absence without loss of salary, 12 weeks of unpaid leave per fiscal year for reasons covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, and a stipend of $2,000 for full-time faculty with a doctorate degree plus an additional $500 at the end of each semester.

Maag said he is relieved negotiations for 2013-14 have come to an end and he expessed his gratitude to the faculty for its support.

“I cannot say enough about how thankful I am for all the work you have done on our behalf,” he said. “I’m so fortunate to have seen first hand the relentless and passionate efforts you have put into this last year and a half.”
Faculty negotiations team member Rob Unger agreed.

“Thank you for marching, carrying signs and showing your support!” he said.

“It was greatly appreciated and helped turn the tide!”

Maag cautioned that there are still bruised feelings to heal.

“It’s been about a year and six months that we have been negotiating this contract, which is pretty out of

the ordinary,” he said. “During that last year and six months they asked us for a five percent pay cut, they’ve threatened to do layoffs, they threatened to take us to impasse and delayed sabbaticals. It’s been a really rough ride in the last year and six months.”

Maag said he was relieved with the deal, but also said a 1.57 percent increase after seven years of not receiving COLA is not much.

Vesting rights are also still an issue. Part-time instructors who get favorable evaluations and have worked for six semesters in a row would be vested with the amount of classes they taught during the same six-semester period.

“If I taught three classes for six semesters in a row with nothing but good evaluations, I would assume I would be vested at three classes,” he said.

Vesting language remains unclear, he said.

“Now (the district) argued that vesting is less than one class,” said Maag. “So even if you’ve taught here for more than 10 years, nothing but positive evaluations, their argument is that they only owe you one class.”

Maah said he expects the vesting issue will be a central topic in the next round of negotiations, which is scheduled to begin no later than April 25.

With contributions by Nickolas Furr and Jason O’Neal

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