District poised to implement devastating, unilateral paycuts over Union objections

Today’s Chronicle reports that AFT 2121 leaders are “livid” over College plans to impose an 8.8% additional faculty pay cut starting in January. We are! Should the District not back off these plans at our last bargaining session today, we will take action to get this action overturned by a labor arbitrator under our contract’s grievance and binding arbitration procedure. 

The administration has indicated that it will announce the pay cuts to faculty on December 20th despite the fact that it has not engaged with the Union in a meaningful attempt to find alternatives or to mitigate the size of any cuts. This represents the abandonment of our longstanding tradition of a negotiating process based on principles of shared interest and good faith bargaining. We will therefore have no choice but to seek legal redress.

The District asserts it has the right to unilaterally slash faculty wages based on the so-called “trombone clause” (A.1.1.2), which sets forth procedures that can lead to wage reductions after a cut in State funding.  At Monday’s bargaining session, the District finally outlined its claim that it will cut wages to recover last year’s ongoing State cuts of $13 million—even though the parties bargained in good faith, reaching agreement on June 20, 2012 to address these losses, including the 2.85% wage reduction this year and millions of dollars in savings through attrition and program cuts. The District is essentially overriding the previous agreement by now moving to cut wages to recover $13 million on top of the already agreed to concessions.

Should the District go forward, which appears inevitable at this point, AFT 2121 will take action to undo this over-reach by the District and seek redress for the huge financial losses suffered in the meantime by faculty. We expect to prevail; our lawyer, who has been at the negotiating table with us for several weeks now, agrees. The District has improperly seized on a clause in the contract, but this action is unwarranted, unprecedented, and violates our contract and bargaining rights.

That is little current comfort, however, for the many faculty who who may not be able to meet their financial obligations. Faculty agreed to balance the District’s 2012-13 budget by voting for a 2.85% paycut this year, but piling on an additional 8.8 % cut for the next six months (4.4% over the year, retroactive) will put many in tremendous financial jeopardy, even if they can reasonably expect to have that pay returned at a later date. The hit in January to faculty paychecks will be devastating. For instance, a faculty member making $75,000 annually can expect to see wages garnished by more than $530 a month. Additionally, the District intends for these cuts to become permanent wage reductions of 5% beginning July, 2013.

We all want to ensure the College’s fiscal stability; this is why we worked so hard to bring new revenues to City College and have negotiated some very painful but necessary concessions in recent years. But an outsized, pre-emptive cut based on enrollment projections tied to cuts in prior year spending that have already been addressed? Not acceptable. While District negotiators claim to be sympathetic, they are nonetheless intent on implementing a cut of this size, regardless of whether enrollment numbers climb significantly, even astronomically, in the coming weeks.

Given the magnitude of these unilateral cuts, the Union has also withdrawn support for the conceptual agreement reached with the District regarding transition to monthly pay: this would only compound the hardship on faculty. While we agree in principle that monthly pay will contribute significantly to City College’s financial well-being, the impact of this double hit to faculty will be devastating. However, despite the fact that the Union and the District did not finalize a monthly pay agreement or sign off on it, and despite the new circumstance of imposing exponential cuts in faculty pay, the District has now informed us that they will also move forward with monthly pay over our objections, yet another example of the tremendous disregard for collective bargaining and faculty hardship.

What else can we expect? Our actions will not be limited to seeking legal redress.  Not only is the District slashing faculty pay and laying off workers in the current year; it has also moved to segregate Prop A revenues, which the District begins receiving next year, from the CCSF General Budget. In doing so, they are artificially creating a $15 million deficit for 2013-14, setting the stage for ongoing, permanent wage reductions and program cuts.

We have no intention of accepting this betrayal of the voters, who approved Prop A to help City College save and restore programs for students, prevent layoffs, and support worker livelihoods. We will take our case to the public with your active support and with the support of students and community.

Clearly, the administration is not interested in moving forward to build a stronger College with the support of workers who have done so much to ensure the College’s ongoing viability and do so much, each day, to ensure quality education for our students. There will be no business as usual as the Spring semester starts; prepare now to join this protracted fight to secure our rights. The Union will provide more information as it becomes clear, and will be communicating over the break as much as possible. Please continue to check in with us as we continue in this next, unfortunate phase of the fight to Save Our City College.

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