New two-year contract contains no raises for SBCC employees

JAMES LIVINGSTON, Channels Staff

After several months of negotiations, the Faculty Association and Santa Barbara Community College District voted to ratify a two-year contract regarding faculty salary adjustments.

The vote was passed by a 125-10 vote.

The new collective bargaining agreement must still be approved by the Board of Trustees, which will be on its agenda Thursday, March 23.

The contract begins retroactively on July 1, 2016 and will cover the following two years until June 30, 2018. The terms will not go into effect until there is approval from the board.

Negotiations were prolonged over last year while the two sides awaited results of the projections for future enrollment, which returned much lower than expected. This decline in enrollment will put a strain on the college’s budget for the next few years.

“Not only are we budgeting for somewhere between a $1.5 million and $2 million deficit for this year, but the projections still show a $4.5 million shortfall next year,” said Dr. Cornelia Alsheimer, faculty association president. “We had to go back to the faculty and say that although we made good progress in the previous contract, there were no available funds to make large progress this time.”

One of the changes for this contract results in a salary freeze for faculty for the current year, in which no adjustments or raises will be issued.

This change results from the zero percent Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA, provided by the state of California for 2016-17.

The COLA is typically added to the faculty’s salary schedules, but because the college wasn’t granted additional funds for cost of living increases, it could not supply an increase.

Both the association and the district hold a reopener clause that can be used to reopen negotiations of this contract for an item of their choice. The Faculty Association hopes to re-examine their situation in 2017-18 when the governor’s budget provides for a COLA of 1.48%.

In the last contract, the college made a commitment to bring salaries up to meet the median of 10 financially similar colleges throughout California. But last year, the college fell behind that median by 2.5%, and the drastic decline in enrollment restricted the association and the district’s efforts to raise the salaries back to that median.

“Given the budget situation, we’re in a cut mode,” said Dr. Jack Friedlander, executive vice president of educational programs and chief negotiator for the district. “We wanted to work with the staff to come up with a contract that addressed needs of the faculty and the administration and not add pressure to the college’s budget.”

The Faculty Association also addressed issues from the prior contract by adjusting the summer session schedule. The schedule had fallen behind to a point where some part-time faculty were paid at a higher rate than full-time faculty. The two sides agreed that both full-time and part-time faculty should be compensated equally over the summer, so they eliminated the special schedule.

Alsheimer quickly dismissed any speculation that the new contract would not include health benefits for faculty over the next two years.

“The district agreed to fully fund the 80% plan for health benefits. They actually agreed to this for the first year and the second year of the contract already, which I think is a great gesture from the district,” Alsheimer said. “There is basically the same level of benefits available and coverage of the benefits as we had before, so the increases in premiums are fully covered by the district.”

Despite the college’s projected loss of revenue over the next four years, the institution holds a positive outlook for the future of the school.

“I’m very happy with the contract,” Friedlander said. “I felt that what we came up with was very creative and innovative and that everybody was trying hard to address our goals. What we didn’t address now, we took great steps towards for our next contract.”