For the first time in about 20 years, College of the Canyons’ full-time faculty rejected a preliminary offer in contract negotiations from Santa Clarita Community College officials, according to a faculty rep Monday.
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“Faculty members at COC are outraged and insulted,” said Vincent Devlahovich, president of the College of the Canyons Faculty Association, or COCFA. “While we understand that the economy has been weak over the past seven years, the cost of living has continued to go up and our members are feeling the financial strain.”
The recent vote was in consideration of a 1.57 percent cost of living adjustment raise as an offer authorized by SCCCD officials, after a process known as interest-based negotiations, Devlahovich said.
“The real issue from our perspective is that the faculty union voted down a fiscally prudent contract that would have provided similar benefits by our other two unions,” said Eric Harnish, vice president of public information for College of the Canyons. “Much to our surprise, the full-time faculty union ended negotiations abruptly and voted down a reasonable contract offer.”
The full-time professors have not received any increases in about seven years, since the economy began to sour, which severely impacted state funding, according to faculty reps.
“We were led to believe (the offer) would be a lot more than COLA,” said Devlahovich, regarding the college’s offer. “We were very, very disappointed with the COLA only. We were led early on to believe it would be COLA-plus.”
The union didn’t have a specific number in mind as far as a counter offer; however, faculty members were hopeful the salary increase would be in line with adminstrators’ pay increases over that same seven-year span.
That figure showed percentage of wage increases for administrators averaging double digits, according to union officials. Figures provided by faculty union were inaccurate regarding administrator pay increases, according to Harnish.
The next step is for both sides to meet, allowing SCCCD officials to make a “best and final offer” in response, which would then be followed by another faculty union vote.
The district and the union bargaining teams have identified two weeks during the summer months when they plan to resume negotiations, Harnish said.
In the vote, 142 ballots were cast by faculty members, 101 voted “no,” 17 voted “yes” and 24 ballots were received and later invalidated, according to union officials.
The COCFA, which is comprised of 175 full-time professors, has been operating under an expired contract since 2012, according to a statement from the faculty union.
The college graduated its largest classes ever last week. Dozens of faculty members reportedly did not show up to graduation ceremonies in protest, according to attendees.
The COCFA also reported Dianne Van Hook, president and chancellor of COC, is one of the highest paid community college leaders in California, earning upwards of $290,000 annually.
The negotiations come at a time of improved education funding, according to faculty leaders. This was a claim disputed by college officials.
While Proposition 30 created $13.1 billion in additional education funds, and $10.7 million went to the Santa Clarita Community College District, faculty members have been unable to get an accurate account of how the money assisted the teaching staff, Devlahovich added.
“The requirements for how Proposition 30 funds must be spent are very clear,” Devlahovich said. “We are being told that COC’s Proposition 30 monies were to be spent on instructional areas, including faculty salaries and benefits, yet we have been unable to get a true accounting of this.”
The money directed to professors’ salaries was earmarked and went to the appropriate budgetary uses, Harnish said, adding faculty members were given a report detailing the uses.
“The thing to keep in mind about Proposition 30,” Harnish said, “is when that was proposed, the way it was proposed was, ‘Significant cuts are going to happen unless (it passes),'” he said. “Even with the passage of Proposition 30, we’re continuing to practice fiscal restraint due to the unpredictable nature of state finances.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News