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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chipola Faculty Union Files Grievance Against School’s Emphasis on Athletic Programs

Special meeting called with magistrate to handle unresolved issues.
By Sid Riley
At a special, formal meeting which was held on Wednesday morning on the Chipola campus, school officials met with representatives from the Chipola Faculty Association, and a special magistrate who listened to arguments from both sides of unresolved union contract issues. The primary issues brought forth by the union were the school policy relating to required staff on campus work hours, and most importantly, the imbalance in funding between expenditures on school athletic programs and faculty pay and benefits. This meeting was required after previous negotiations failed to garner any positive results for the union and an impasse was declared.
When routine, normal contract negotiations become nonproductive, either side can declare an impasse. When this occurs the parties agree to a mutually acceptable magistrate who will listen to arguments and issues presented by both the union and the college administration. With this formal proceeding completed, the magistrate then has a pre-allotted amount of time to rule on the issues in dispute. The opposing parties can then accept his rulings as binding, or they can file a motion contesting his decisions. The contested issues are then argued before Board of Trustees appointed by the Governor, for a final, binding ruling.
The Magistrate who was selected for these hearings was Mr. Steve Young, of Port Charlotte, Florida. At Tuesday’s session, this reporter was only able to attend the morning portion before writing this report, thus having only heard the arguments presented by the Union side in the dispute. However, we will attempt to present a balanced overview, with a full report to be presented in next week’s issue of the Jackson County Times.
The arguments presented by the Chipola Faculty Association focused on two main issues, faculty salaries and the required hours a faculty member is required to work each week. They began with testimony presented by Bruce White, Faculty Instructor in English and Humanities and elected President of the JCFA. He showed data comparing the $43,222 average faculty salary at Chipola to the state average for the 28 community colleges of $52,200. Of course Chipola is among the smallest of these colleges. He showed at the much larger Tallahassee Community College the average faculty pay is over $16,000 more.
Their data also demonstrated that at Chipola, the 30 members of the Administrative staff make a total of $2.5 million dollars per year, while the 48 faculty members also make $2.5 million dollars per year. This yields an average administrative salary of $83,300.
In discussions with Chipola administrators they stated that when the overload payments, comp time, substitute payments and other provisions are included, the figures presented by the union are not correct. The only fair basis of pay comparison between colleges is when total gross annual income is compared.
In the matter of work hours, the existing system requires a faculty member to work 35 hours per week, 15 involved in classroom instruction, 13 in office availability, and 7 other on-campus time. The union wants the work week shortened to 25 hours per week, with increased credit for working from home. This measure would cost the college approximately $90,000 per year in additional salaries cost.
The other major body of financial data presented by the Union involved comparing the amount of monies Chipola spends on athletics as compared to other state community colleges. They built an argument that the college is substituting increased pay for the faculty by increased expenditures for athletic programs. They showed that Chipola is spending approximately $1.4 million per year out of Fund 1 funds on athletics, or about 11%, while larger colleges are spending much less, even colleges which are much larger.
In conversation with Tim Young, Vice President of Finance at Chipola, he stated that the Union’s figures are misleading and only tell part of the story. First, the private donated funds generated by the supporters in our community are added to the Fund 1 totals for better financial controls, so a significant portion of the reported expenditures are not state generated funds. The statistics also include grants given for scholarships. “I can assure you that if we dropped all athletic programs it would not add $1.4 million to our budget”, Young stated.
The second body of testimony presented by the Union came from Karen Lipford, a nursing instructor. Her discussion was pointed at issues relating to the nursing program. Since there is a significant demand for Nurse Practitioners and Master RN’s in the private sector, where salaries exceeding $60,000 per year are commonplace, it is very difficult to meet the instructional staffing needs for the nursing programs at Chipola using the prescribed salary levels. She also had issues relating to crediting time spent off campus at area hospitals and clinics.
Lipford also testified for the need to modify the required work hours, point credit requirements, and substitute pay levels, especially within the nursing arena. The Union argued that the College had not bargained in good faith at earlier negotiations when they offered no salary increases in their approach to the new contract.
The hearings will conclude on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, and the Magistrate’s decision will follow. We will report more next week.

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