State's community college faculty, staff weigh tentative contract
PITTSFIELD — The union representing faculty and other staff members at the state's 15 community colleges is in the process of voting on a proposed new three-year contract that was recommended by the union's board of directors.
Voting by union members will continue through March 23, when the result will be announced, according to Liz Recko-Morrison, coordinator for assessment and testing at Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts Community College Council director on the Pittsfield campus.
The union board has recommended adoption, she said, while acknowledging there are some members who "certainly have different feelings."
While the union did not receive the pay increases it sought to be more in line with recent contracts for other faculty in higher education, she said proposals by the Board of Higher Education to extend the potential work day hour for full-time faculty and link pay to student outcomes were dropped.
The proposed contract calls for raises of 2 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second and third year of the pact. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2015, when the previous pact expired.
The raise figures are the same as those proposed by the state late last year, as the MCCC membership on all of the campuses had begun work to rule job actions to protest the stalled contract talks. Because the employees are barred by law from striking, the job action — working only to the exact language of the union's contract — is a method of applying pressure for a new contract agreement.
There are just over 2,000 faculty and union-represented staff at 15 community colleges. At BCC, there are about 56 full-time faculty members in the union and 22 unit professionals, which means coordinators for tutoring, counseling, testing, learning disability support or other services.
Recko-Morrison said this week that she favors adopting the proposed contract. "Is it everything we wanted? Not at all," she said, but added that several changes in the state's proposals were made that benefitted the union membership.
One proposal would have extended from 5 to 6:30 p.m. the potential start time for classes taught by full-time faculty members. Another would have linked raises to educational outcomes at an institution.
Because so many community college students either work full or part time, and many are adult students, there are a number of possible economic and societal influences on student grades, Recko-Morrison said.
"I don't want to be judged on something I can't control," she said.
Another proposal put forth by the state but dropped from the tentative contract would have allowed management to assign teachers to teach online courses based on the needs of the college.
The level of pay remains an issue for union members, Recko-Morrison said. Although community college faculty and staff "do the heavy lifting" of higher education, they are not paid as well as others in Massachusetts, she said.
Union officials contend that many of the students attending the two-year institutions have greater needs and require more staff support and attention to allow them to succeed academically.
Joseph LeBlanc, the president of the MCCC, noted in an interview in December that state college and university faculty and professional staff had recently received a contract with 3.5 percent raises per year over three years, yet the state was offering community college faculty smaller pay raises.
Part-time community college faculty are not involved in the tentative full-time faculty contract, but those employees received a 4 percent raise earlier this year.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
On the web ...
A copy of the tentative agreement can be viewed on the MCCC website at https://mccc-union.org/Bargaining_Updates.html
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