Back to square one: Faculty force contracts back to negotiations

After long and contentious negotiations between district officials and the full-time faculty union, Citrus College teachers overwhelmingly voted March 25 to reject the tentative contract agreement.

The Citrus Community College District contract proposal, which included a 4.8 percent raise and a reconfiguration in the overload payment schedule, was rejected by 68 percent of the voting faculty.
“It was a great turn out,” said Paul Swatzel, president of the Citrus College Faculty Association. He estimated that the 95 percent of the full-time faculty participated in the vote to ratify or reject the tentative agreement.

“We’re in the process of surveying the faculty right now. We have about 70 or so responses,” Swatzel said.

The results a post-vote survey conducted by the union indicated that the faculty is not happy about a number of things, Swatzel said. “The number one reason people voted ‘no’ was for the flat rate on overload.”

Overload, which is calculated on a separate salary schedule, is compensation for teaching extra classes, anything above the standard 15 lecture hours that full-time faculty are required to work.

Under the tentative agreement, pay for overload would have changed from a column-based graduated system to a flat rate for all faculty, regardless of academic degrees or years of seniority.

“In the tentative agreement, there was a single number for overload, regardless of the number of years of education,” Swatzel said.

“Faculty were not happy with going to a single number for overload.  “They felt it was inequitable, especially the ones with mounds of student loan debt, under the tentative agreement, professors with doctorates would be paid at the same rate as someone with a minimum qualification.”

According to Bruce Langford, former chief negotiator for the CCFA, about 80 percent of the faculty at Citrus College teach intersession or overload classes in addition to their full-time assignments.

“There was some reconfiguring of overload, so that everybody made more,” Langford said. He noted that the association’s negotiation team was intent on raising compensation that full-time faculty are being paid for overload.

“We thought it was low, I think the district knows it is low…we came to what I thought was a fair compromise,” Langford said.

The full-time faculty contract expired in December 2014. Negotiators from both the Citrus College Faculty Association and the Citrus Community College District had been working on a new agreement for several months.

In addition to the change in overload, the tentative agreement would have also given the faculty a 4.8 percent raise over three years.

According to Swatzel, 71 percent of the faculty who responded to the CCFA survey indicated that they did not agree with the proposed across-the-board salary increases.

“Faculty want to see at least COLA or better,” Swatzel said.

Employment contracts, pension benefits, and government entitlements such as Social Security can be tied to a cost-of-living index, typically to the consumer index. A COLA adjusts salaries based on changes in a cost-of-living index. Salaries are typically adjusted annually.

“Years two and three on the tentative agreement that was voted down was 1.25 percent across the board raise, yet COLA is projected to be about 1.58 percent.”

Across the board, with the exception of the overload issue, in the tentative agreement was a 2.25 percent increase for year one, meaning all salary schedules would be bumped up. Year two included a 1.25 percent raise, which would again increase all faculty salary schedules and the overload would have been a single number. Year three would have included another 1.25 percent raise.

“More and more information has come out from the state and the state budget picture looks better and better,” Swatzel said. “The school is sitting on a projected 17 percent [general] reserve.”

“General Reserve is a term synonymously used for the Fund Balance of the district’s Unrestricted General Fund.  The purpose of the Unrestricted General Fund is to serve as the primary operating fund of the district,” said Claudette Dain, vice president of finance and administrative services, who also serves on the district’s negotiating team.

The general fund is used to account for those transactions that, in general, cover the full scope of operations of the district: instruction, administration, student services, maintenance and operations.

The fund balance combines both one-time and ongoing funds, Dain said.  As defined in the district’s Adopted Budget document, one-time funds are unspent funds that remain after a fiscal year has ended.  These are funds that would not necessarily be replicated in subsequent years.

“It is not fiscally prudent to use one-time funds for ongoing costs, such as salaries of permanent staff.  Ideally, one-time funds would be used for one-time purposes, such as capital outlay or other one-time expenditures,” Dain said.

According to Langford, who was removed from his position as chief negotiator before the March 25 vote on the tentative agreement, some faculty thought the raise should be 10-15 percent range rather than the nearly five percent increase over the span of three years.

“I think that’s unreasonable for a number of reasons. I’ve looked at the district’s numbers,” Langford said.

“We surveyed about 40 other colleges, and I think only two of them had a raise that was more significant than ours, and in both cases they had to sacrifice something to get there.

Pasadena City College faculty recently approved a 10-11 percent raise, but as Langford said, “They had not had a raise in seven years and they capped health care.”

Swatzel concurs.

“The people that go after these huge raises don’t mention things like healthcare being capped,” Swatzel said. “There is only so much money.”

Until a new contract agreement can be reached, the expired contract will remain active.

“Unless something miraculous happens, we won’t have a contract in place by next fall, which means we will have worked almost a year with out a contract,” Langford said.

With newly appointed CCFA chief negotiator Brian Waddington, the union will be drafting a new proposal for the district to review, Swatzel said.

No time frame has been established as of press time.

“We will try to come to a mutual agreement with the district that will satisfy all parties,” Swatzel said. “We all want to get this resolved.”



Evan Solano is the current Managing Editor of the Citrus College Clarion for Fall 2015. This is his fourth semester on the Clarion, having also served as Managing Editor in Fall 2014. He is a journalism major who hopes to transfer to Cal State Fullerton. He has been a member of the Clarion since Fall 2013, and does freelance writing, photography and graphic design.