Isabelle Saber, chief negotiator for the faculty guild, addressed the Board of Trustees on March 19 after an email sent to the guild on March 14 rejected the most recent contract offers put forward by the guild.
Saber, along with more than 70 faculty members congregated in Kreider Hall to protest an act which they call a violation of labor law by the college district negotiating team.
“We, the faculty of GCC, are not interested in war and we are here tonight to find an amicable way out of this situation,” said Saber.
The email sent to the Guild stated that the Guild had requested an increase of 7.3 percent for all salary schedules, retroactive to July 1, 2006 for adjunct health benefits. These numbers were factual errors, according to the Guild.
The problem surging from this email is the fact that the district’s negotiating team rejected the offer before talking to the guild negotiating team or the guild leadership. This violates labor law in the sense that the items that were on the negotiating table were published before being agreed on.
According to history professor Gordon Alexandre, the email and the administration’s actions are a “violation of labor law and due process” due to the district’s failure to “come to the table to officially reject the counter proposal” when they [the district] had previously asked to receive [the proposal] in writing.
Saber had been asked by Mary Mirch, the associate dean and chief negotiator for the district, to send a written proposal of the guild’s offer, document which she was going to send to Mirch the morning of March 14 when she received the email rejecting the offer.
Since the BOT meeting, several discussions have taken place among faculty, the administration and board members in order to “smooth out” the situation, according to Saber.
“What happened was a breach of process and a possible violation of labor laws,” she said. “I think the administration understands that now and the board has gotten involved in rectifying certain miscommunications that have happened.”
One of the main points being addressed in these discussions is the need to improve communication among faculty and the administration in order to prevent further such incidents from occurring.
BOT President Armineh Hacopian and Superintendent/President Audre Levy attended a guild meeting to explain their positions.
This meeting gave Levy and Hacopian an opportunity to listen to what faculty members had to say about the current situation.
“Dr. Hacopian has graciously been trying to hear both sides and mend some fences,” said Saber. “She met with [the guild] and she’s really trying to understand the issues to find a solution.”
“[We want to try to find] a way to not just coexist, but deal with each other amicably and professionally,” she added.
Faculty is also hoping for a more open door policy from Levy, a policy which would allow better communication between the faculty and the administration.
“The consensus has been that we have been barred from communicating with Dr. Levy in the past [but] I understand that is going to change,” Saber said. “We [the faculty] welcome that change.”
The guild has presented their counter offer, the one that was rejected, in writing. They are still waiting on a response.
Saber assures that “this is not faculty fighting with the administration out of greed.”
“What we are trying to do here is actually make sure we can get good faculty members to continue the level of dedication and excellence we’ve [GCC] had for so many years,” said Saber. “But if we can’t pay our part-timers well and they go to other colleges, or if we can’t pay incoming full-time faculty well, they take positions elsewhere because the pay is so low.”
The faculty at GCC has not received an adequate pay raise for several years now. This year, the college received some extra money from the state which the faculty hopes can be allocated to their salaries.
The faculty fears that if an issue like this does not get resolved, the most affected population will be the students.
“You guys are our first priority,” said Saber. “We as teachers care about your well being and your education tremendously. We want this issue resolved so that we can go back to the business of teaching and interacting with students fully.”