LCCEA Update – April 1, 2015

LCC Faculty Colleagues,
I hope this finds you well and that you were able to get some rest and had some fun last week. I’m writing to report on a number of matters, and once again will divide this report into a few “editions.” Today’s topics:

1.  College Budget / Administration Notice of Layoff Plans / Program Closures
2.  State Funding for Community Colleges
3.  Enrollment Capacity MOA Revision Agreement
4.  Grievances/Arbitration Update

1.  College Budget / Administration Notice of Layoff Plans / Program Closures
Once again this year the Administration formally notified the Association of their intention to layoff contracted faculty members, effective this September (or next). As provided in Article 10.2, Association and Administration representatives met on March 13 to “discuss the general subject and possible alternatives.” We were informed that the Administration intends to propose eliminating “three professional technical programs” that would result in laying off “four contracted faculty members”; no doubt that would also eliminate the jobs of part-time and temporary contracted faculty.

We immediately submitted a formal information request asking for the names of the programs and all affected faculty members; data on the programs’ expenses, revenues, anticipated effects of the proposed closures on college expenses and revenues; and the data that the Administration reportedly used to select the programs it is proposing closing. We reached agreement that the College would provide us the list of the programs on March 20th (after they’d notified LCC Board of Education members) and that the College would notify the affected faculty members individually by Friday, April 3 (Article 10.17, below, gives the College until May 1 to notify affected employees). Late on Friday of Finals week, the College provided us the list of programs it is proposing be eliminated, and we’ve received some of the additional data that we’ve requested; we’ve begun studying the data and requesting clarifications and additional information. Once the individual faculty have been notified by the College, we will organize a meeting of all faculty in the affected departments to discuss the matter and continue to build upon our planned response. As we noted previously, we are highly dubious that virtually any program reductions would actually result in net savings to our college (President Spilde herself has publicly noted that virtually all of our programs bring in more revenues than they cost). While the last Administration program eliminations and layoffs (2002) were based upon projected “savings” that entirely ignored the impact on college revenues, when one does factor in the lost tuition, lost differential tuition charges, lost fees, and lost state student FTE reimbursement, cutting programs virtually guarantees a negative impact on the college bottom line. We are confident that such an accounting of the actual budget impact of the Administration’s proposal, along with making public the impact of such cuts on our students and our community, will result in either the Administration itself recognizing the strategic error of its plan, or the Board of Education will recognize the folly of closing professional technical programs that educate and provide jobs to our community, and that help the bottom line of our college budget. More on this as it develops.

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.

10.17  Retrenchment Notice to Employee. The College will provide notice of layoff to the affected employee by no later than May 1 of the same academic year for any employee affected by a retrenchment which the College was required to discuss with the Association by March 15 in Section 10.2. The College will provide at least sixty (60) calendar days’ notice of layoff which is at least thirty (30) calendar days after the sixty (60)-day notice to the Association in Section 10.2, to the affected employees for retrenchments that occur at any other time of the year.

2.  State Funding for Community Colleges and LCC Budget for FY16
On a related note, the state budget process for the 2015-2017 Biennia is picking up this week. I’ll be in Salem today and tomorrow along with other community college supporters, meeting with legislators and testifying on the need for public funding for our community colleges. We’re starting off somewhat better than we have in recent years, with strong support from many legislators and a Ways and Means Committee Co-Chair’s proposal of up to $550M for the Community College Support Fund, which would would represent an 8.5% increase from the current biennia’s (revised) allocation. However, the Co-Chair’s proposal did link that amount to increased state revenues that may be lost if the “kicker” kicks, and it still would only get us back to just above where we originally were in the 2007-2009 budget, ignoring the approximately 13% inflation since then.

The formal aspects of the college budget process are kicking off this week as well, with a meeting of the College Council’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee tomorrow. The Administration has already provided the Board of Education a “hypothetical” budget, that addresses the approximately $4M projected deficit for FY16 by tapping into the current $10M Ending Fund Balance, building into the budget a recognition of regularly occurring vacancies that can be anticipated (both moves that the Association has been strongly promoting in recent years), and other steps. It appears that our calls have been heard for a more reasonable budget process that doesn’t project massive deficits and unnecessarily pit students and employees against each other. The key objectionable item in the Administration’s “hypothetical plan” is the inclusion of approximately one million dollars in “savings” from program elimination and reductions, “savings” that, as we noted above, are not realistic and would seve only to deprive our students and our community of these programs, while actually resulting in increasing the deficit after factoring in the impact on college revenue. We need to maintain our revenue sources, not cut them, and maintain our commitment to our students, our community, and our faculty and staff. More on this as it develops as well.

3.  Enrollment Capacity MOA Revision Agreement
Consistent with Step 3 of the Enrollment Capacity Agreement Implementation Process agreement (below), the Association and College reviewed the data on the Enrollment Capacity implementation, and on March 18 we reached a Tentative Agreement with the Administration regarding several revisions to the Implementation Plan, which we confirmed with the Administration yesterday. Part of that Agreement provides that the College and Association collaborate on communicating it to the faculty, so please look for a joint communication later today or tomorrow.

            Enrollment Capacity Implementation Process
 
The following constitutes the College – Association agreed upon process for implementing Article 3 of the MOA: WORKLOAD, CLASS CANCELLATION, AND ENROLLMENT CAPACITY (see below) for the 2014 -2015 year:

1.  The attached class enrollment capacities spreadsheet for FY15 identifies current class sizes and sizes enhanced in recognition of anticipated attrition.

2.  Enhanced class sizes will be set at these numbers during each term schedule build for FY15, excluding Summer 2014. All enhanced sections will be z-coded by the College by 8 a.m. of the Friday of the first week of each term.
 
3.  The College and the Association will jointly review course enrollments on Monday of Week 5 in each Academic term (F14, W15, P15). This information will be used for annual review; the College and Association may agree to revise this plan on a term by term basis during the FY15 year that results in the same total savings.

4.  The College and the Association will review this operationalizing process during the fifth week of winter term for implementation for the next fiscal year and annually thereafter.

4.  Arbitrations Update
Last week we (finally) received the Arbitrator’s decision on the Insurance Deductions Arbitration. While the Arbitrator rejected the College’s attempt to have our case thrown out on procedural grounds, he did rule that there was sufficient ambiguity in the evidence about the original Agreement that he could not sustain our grievance, as the moving party in the matter  We believe his ruling overlooks the clear evidence about the intent of the agreement, i.e., that the College was to pick up 17% points of the 24% rate hike that year, not raise the College’s previous contribution by 17%, which is what they did. When asked where the “17%” referenced in the Agreement came from, the Administration couldn’t answer, claiming they “don’t know”; as we testified, we made clear that we proposed it, as the product of our proposal to “waive the cost neutrality language” and apply the current language requiring the College to pick up the first 10% points of any rate hikes and split the remaining (thus 10% plus 7% of the remaining 14%, resulting in picking up 17% points of the 24% hike that year). Why the Arbitrator found that “ambiguous” is difficult to understand. Nonetheless, as we’ve seen before, with the Administration challenging the agreements we’ve reached, and with us as the moving party required (apparently) to disprove beyond any doubt the Administration’s actions/claims, we have found no relief from this violation of our Agreement. This will be a matter to take up in future bargaining. Please do note that the actual impact on faculty members was quite low, given our other bargainings and steps taken regarding insurance; many faculty pay nothing out of paycheck, so the relief would have been very limited for many. We took this matter to arbitration both because the difference between what we bargained and what the College implemented would carry over into the future if not corrected, and because as a matter of principle we should be able to expect that the College implements our Agreements fully and accurately, an expectation we will continue to maintain.

We submitted the written brief on the Part-time Faculty Steps Arbitration last week. That Arbitration holds that, as above, the College failed to implement the Agreement that we agreed to, with all faculty members, contracted and part-time, provided the “catch up half-steps” at the end of the year in which they’d only received half of the steps that they’d earned. The College did provide the catch up steps for contracted faculty, but failed to do so for part-time faculty, and has refused to correct the error. The Administration falsely claimed that this was not the original agreement and came up with literally incredible explanations for the written evidence demonstrating that this was the intent, as demonstrated in their own documents. We look forward to the Arbitrator’s ruling, which he promised to provide in a fairly quick fashion.

We have one more arbitration hearing scheduled this year (May 7th), over the College’s refusal to adhere to the contractual guidelines in complaint investigations. They’ve apparently waived their right to contest their refusal to recognize the requirement to request additional time to complete investigations, but are still arguing that Article 25.9.4’s provision that faculty members facing a complaint “shall include an opportunity for the faculty member to … respond to and/or rebut the evidence” somehow doesn’t require them to provide the evidence and an opportunity to respond and rebut it. We look forward to protecting all faculty members’ rights to actually see and respond to the “evidence” that the Administration gathers in such complaint investigations.

Finally, regarding Brother Jim O’Brien’s interpretation of the Faculty Vacancy Arbitration, while we wish that he was correct in seeing limited effects of the ruling, that was not the intent or the effect of the ruling. Jim’s key reading is that “… the denial affirmed that the article prohibits dividing a retrenched position among part-time assignments,” but the denial clearly limited such a prohibition to retrenchments. Similarly, while the Arbitrator sustained Article 12.5, which provides that the College must inform us of their plans to not fill vacancies that have occurred (e.g. due to retirement), the language does not require them to actually fill the positions, as it allows them to notify us that they don’t plan to do so. Our argument was that they are required to provide an actual “plan” to fill the positions, and that “we’ll fill it when we can afford to do so” isn’t a “plan,” but with current examples of such positions open for as long as eight years, it’s clear that the Arbitrator’s ruling does not require the College to actually fill the vacated positions. Had that been his position, he would have required the College to fill some or all of the vacancies currently backfilled with part-time assignments.

Also, please note that some of the quotes portrayed in Jim’s analysis as “the Arbitrator’s conclusion” were in fact the portion of the opinion where the Arbitrator was summarizing the College’s position. These include Jim’s statement that in addition, the arbiter found that the Association failed to contest the College’s stated intention to use part-time faculty as a means to protect student choice for access to needed credit hours; as well as the claim that no [overall] erosion of full-time positions since 2006, and the Association failed to show that “any of the 16 positions constituted a full-time assignment in 2013 – 2014 or that the courses taught by the departed full-time faculty assigned to part-time faculty exceeded .5 full-time equivalent.” These are College claims, not Arbitrator’s conclusions, and we fully rebutted them, in testimony and in our brief. The Arbitrator’s positions are in the following section of the ruling, under “FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS.”

More on other matters tomorrow!

Best,
Jim Salt
LCCEA President

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