AFT met last Friday with representatives from the District. We remain at an impasse on pay raises and a handful of issues. I want to share with you the status of our discussions and invite your questions and feedback.
1. Pay raises for all faculty during the next 3 years. The District remains firm that it will not commit to any pay raises for the next 3 years for faculty. Their position is based on the current uncertainty in enrollment levels and uncertainty of State funding for all higher education.
AFT understands that the current year does have uncertainty - so we've been offering flexible alternatives to allow for uncertainty in the 2020-2021 year - but we are opposed to any agreement to forego pay raises for 3 years because of budget uncertainties in one year.
Also, AFT is frustrated by the failure of the District to acknowledge its own role in our current financial difficulties. The College Presidents have still not acknowledged that during the last 5 years of declining enrollments, budgets were met by cutting classes (and laying off faculty) - instead of reducing overhead costs. In the last 5 years, faculty headcount has declined 28% while exempt employees have remained the same. The College Presidents have diverted an additional 12% of the District's annual spending to non-instructional functions during the last 5 years. Removing $13 million a year from Instruction.
The District's on-going refusal to accept these facts makes it difficult to get them to take steps to correct this unsustainable spending trend. These spending decisions, which negatively impacted our enrollment levels add to the budget uncertainties we now face.
AFT's latest proposal to the District for pay increases attempts to give the District time to adjust its spending and re-prioritize Instruction in its annual budgeting process. Our offer allows the District to not make a pay raise during the current year - instead, starting July 1, 2021 with a 2.5% pay raise for all faculty. This would be followed by another 2.5% for the next two years (7.5% total). Allowing the District several years to address its budget priorities.
The District has countered with a proposal to use some one-time funding it just received access to this year to pay faculty a one-time, lump sum payment in lieu of any pay raises during the next 3 years. The District has offered FT faculty a one-time payment of $700 by July and PT faculty a one-time payment of $470 by the end of summer. AFT rejected this offer as being significantly too low an amount to consider.
These one-time lump sum payment amounts equal 1% of the average pay for a FT and PT faculty - except since they would not increase a faculty member's base pay, making them less valuable than a 1% pay increase over time. Again, this is all the District is offering for the next 3 years.
AFT responded that it will consider a lump sum payment if two conditions are met:
First, - that the lump sum payment is equal in value to the 7.5% (compounded) we proposed over the next 3 years. AFT proposed a one-time payment amount of $6,000 for each FT faculty and $4,000 for each PT faculty.
Second, if any employee group within the District, including management, receives a pay increase during the term of our Contract, AFT members would automatically receive an identical percentage pay increase.
If the District wants us to accommodate their request and accept a one-time payment instead of annual pay raises, then we must insist on receiving both components - a substantial lump sum payment and the tie to future pay raise if they occur. Lump sum payments do not help us recruit new faculty because they do not impact faculty's base salary. A lump sum payment does not improve our long-term pay inequity.
Faculty can understand the District's short term financial uncertainty, but AFT must remain focused on improving the quality of working at Seattle Colleges and the long-term impacts on our students and community.
2. Increasing the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty on our campuses. AFT continues to push for additional full time teaching positions at the Colleges. The District acknowledges that we currently have a ratio of 55%/45% of FT/PT faculty in teaching assignments. They wish to lock-in this current level for the next 3 years - with no improvements. AFT's position is that our current level of FT positions is inadequate to do all the work we need to already do - so locking that ratio in for the next 3 years would be a poor business decision. If we want to increase the diversity of our faculty and have more student engagement to increase retention of our students - then we need to provide full time positions to attract and retain new faculty and we need more FT faculty available to perform all the work needed on campus to grow enrollment and retain our students and the quality of the education offered. AFT proposes we commit to growing the FT/PT ratio over the next few years with a target of achieving 60%/40% as soon as possible.
3. Workload equity - we have reached agreement with the District for all faculty assignments to be paid based on a weekly workload of 15 contact hours. We have agreed on a rollout period for all impacted programs during the next 3 years of our new contract. This change impacts areas such as moonlight assignments, pro rata, annual workload averaging, and guaranteed workload for priority hire faculty. So, we are working through the impact on these related contract provisions to ensure a smooth transition to these new workload contact hours.
4. Hiring practices for part-time faculty. We continue to receive significant push back from the District in our efforts to improve hiring practices for part time faculty in our effort to improve the diversity of our faculty. The current PT hiring practice results in the least diverse hiring of any category of employees at the Colleges - so AFT will continue to push for a change. The District wants to maintain the right for the Unit Administrator to make the decision on their own, while AFT wants a broader committee (like the FT hiring practices) to get a broader range of candidates into the PT hiring pools.
These are the main sticking points in our negotiations. We meet again this Friday with the District team.
Thank you for all your support,
Your AFT negotiation team