President’s Update: “Layoffs,” vacancy and post-retirement agreements, “budget deficits,” and Salem lobby day

March 18, 2013
LCC Faculty Colleagues,

I’m writing to report on a number of topics:

1.  President Spilde directed Dennis Carr to request an extension of the March 15th deadline for the Administration to determine that lay offs are necessary this year, and if we rejected it to notify us of impending layoffs.  The request came out of the blue, both because President Spilde had the opportunity to rate this topic at our monthly Labor Management Committee meeting on Thursday March 14th, and at my monthly meeting with her and Don McNair on Monday, March 11th, but instead left it to Dennis to contact me while at the celebration of the new Downtown Center Friday afternoon.  It also comes out of the blue because the college has a $16 million carryover this year, a $7 million contingency fund, and just Thursday afternoon, March 14th, Mary declared that the college “is in very good financial shape” (Budget Forum).

The Association rejected the College’s request, and noted that the College had forgone the contractual opportunity to pursue layoffs next year, since our contract (Article 10.2, below) requires that the College ‘determine that a retrenchment is necessary’ and if so doing that it then must “schedule a meeting” “by no later than March 15th” “to discuss the general subject and possible alternatives.” The College has done none of these things:

They did NOT determine “that a retrenchment is necessary’, contract, and have yet to do so; they simply want to be able to do so sometime in the future.
They had to have “scheduled a meeting by March 15” which they clearly didn’t do.
Requesting a postponement of the deadline clearly does not constitute “a meeting between the College and the Association to discuss the general subject and possible alternatives.”

Faculty job security relies on our retrenchment language that requires the employer to make a determination by a particular date, and to schedule a meeting to discuss that determination and alternatives. The College has done none of that.  Such requirements are not trivial matters.  The Association informed the College we will neither agree to waive them, nor will ignore them. The College missed the deadline and has forfeited the right to lay off faculty under the provisions of our contract.

Finally, with no discussion of such a ‘determination’, one can only guess at the reason that the College would even attempt to notify the Association of layoffs this year, especially given the historic carry over and Mary’s public pronouncement of our fiscal health less than 24 hours earlier.  The answer, we believe is obvious:  it’s bargaining season, that time of year where the sky is always falling, the light at the end of the tunnel actually a train coming at us.  We don’t buy it, and we encourage you not to either.  The College neither can, contractually, nor needs to, financially, lay faculty off this year.  We do, however, advise faculty to start saving their money, because if bargaining is going to start with the College making specious threats to intimidate faculty, at a time that state funding is going up and the college is better off than it has been in years, it just might take job actions on our part later this year to finally get the college to stop building reserves off the backs of faculty and staff.

2. We reached an agreement with the College on several matters regarding assignments next year, which were important to reach so that faculty and administrators could make plans for the coming year.  The MOA (attached) requires the following:

A. The College shall fill 20 vacant faculty positions by this fall.  One of the 20 will be used to raise the FTE of four ABSE faculty members to 1.0 FTE; the other 19 positions have either had searches started or will have searches begun immediately.  As there were 33 vacancies at the beginning of this term, this agreement will result in a reduction just over 3/5 of the current vacancies. We had proposed eliminating all vacancies as well as all of the 13 so-called ‘Teaching-only’ positions, using the savings from the Teaching-only positions to help fund filling all positions.  The agreement allows the College to maintain up to 13 Teaching-only positions, which by contract will go away in June 2015; however, the College currently plans to fill only eight of the positions.

B. Search committees shall give final interviews to faculty working at least two years in a ‘teaching-only’ position for openings for which they apply and qualify.  Our contract (Article 12.2) requires that temporary contracted positions that go beyond three years without being posted automatically makes any faculty member in the position a full-time, probationary member of the faculty; some ‘teaching-only’ faculty have been in these temporary contracted positions for four years now.  As such, we believe such faculty at a minimum should receive an interview for positions that they are deemed to be qualified to fill.

C. The College and Association will study the recent enrollment decline and to assess the existing agreements (currently set to expire June 30, 2015) that allow the College to assign two additional classes to part-time faculty members before having to pay them contracted rates and benefits, and requires the College to provide contracted faculty members up to two additional classes at part-time salary rates, provided the classes are available.  With the approximately 10% decline in enrollment this year and sections being cut, there are fewer classes available, making such a review necessary.  Any changes in these agreements will, of course, be fully discussed by the faculty before any revisions to the agreement are negotiated as part of the Main Agreement negotiations that would require ratification before any changes are made.

D. The quite popular “Post-Retirement” agreement that allows contracted faculty members to retire from the College and PERS, and continue to work for up to two years as temporary contracted faculty members, between .50 and and .70 FTE annually, has been extended two years.  The ‘pilot’ was set to expire this spring (June 30, 2013), but now will continue at least through June 1015.  We did agree to language that sets a minimum of one course per term unless the department manager approves an assignment less than that, and added language that reminds ‘post-retirees’ that they remain responsible for completing non-teaching work, proportional to their FTE assignment.  As such, faculty members considering retiring this spring in order to take advantage of this language may still do so, of course, but all contracted faculty considering retirement soon may consider using this option for at least two more years.

3. We also reached an agreement on the reassignment time provided in the Governance MOA (attached).  Originally the MOA provided reassignment time to all faculty members of governance councils, in order to provide them time to properly complete their work.  In recent years, due to tight budgets,  we agreed to limit such ‘compensation’ to chairs of councils, and to limit it to $1500 annual stipends.  Our survey this winter of faculty serving as chairs showed that they work at least six hours a week performing their duties, and really need at least ten hours a week to do the work properly.  While the agreement doesn’t fully meet that need, it does provide chairs of councils that meet semi-monthly with one course off for two terms a year, and those that meet monthly with one course off for one term a year.  The Faculty Council, which meets semi-monthly, will be treated the same as college governance councils, with the Co-Chairs splitting the two terms of reassignment.

4.  As you’ve likely heard, the College is projecting a “$9 million” deficit next year.  It’s important to recognize what that figure means, and what it doesn’t mean.  “Deficits” are defined simply as the net sum of projected revenues and expenses for the coming year, so any funds that the College has are not factored in.  In fact, the College had a carryover of $16+ million last July, which by definition is not factored in the projected deficit.  Also, note that it is ‘projected,’ and that the College regularly over-projects expenses ‘in order to have budget authority to spend money without having to return to the Board for authorization’, and ‘under-projects’ revenue ‘in order to be properly conservative as good accounting/business principles suggest.’  Those are key reasons why  the College continually projects large deficits but keeps growing reserves.  Also, the $9m figure assumes community colleges will only receive $428m from the state, doesn’t assume any tuition hike beyond the HEPI cost-of-living-adjustment, and assumes the full projected PERS employer rate hike takes effect.  However, many expect CCs to receive more than $428m, the Board may approve tuition rate changes in additional to the HEPI, and at least some changes are likely underway to PERS that would result in lower employer rates.   Maybe the $9m deficit is projected to intimidate us akin to the layoff threat.

5. Key to getting the state to restore more of the hits that community colleges took since the banks destroyed our economy, is taking our community college needs directly to the legislature.  OEA is organizing a Higher Education Lobby Day next week, March 27th.  Unlike many previous years when higher education folks went  to Salem the same day as K-12, leading us to be swallowed up in pro-K-12 messages, this year higher education has our own day .  Here’s a link to sign up:  http://www.oregoned.org/whats-new/higher-ed.  The OEA will pay costs of travel.  Look for more on this from Doug Smyth, our political and legislative action team chair.

A lot more is going on that I’ll report on in the coming days,

Best,
Jim Salt, LCCEA President

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ARTICLE 10 – RETRENCHMENT
10.2  Association Notice.  Whenever the College determines that a retrenchment is necessary and the retrenchment will affect employees beginning with the new academic year in the fall, then the College by no later than March 15 of the preceding academic year shall schedule a meeting with the Association to discuss the general subject and possible alternatives.  Whenever the College determines that a retrenchment is necessary at any other time, then at least sixty (60) calendar days before its implementation, the College shall schedule a meeting with the Association to discuss the general subject and possible alternatives.

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