Photo by Alexander Bissell / Cuestonian Photo & Video Chief
By Austin Brumblay
Managing Editor of Content
Faculty union leaders and administrators recently reached a tentative agreement on wages — a move that has been heralded by some, but fueled outrage in others who say they’re still not getting what they deserve.
The agreement entails a 1 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2016, and 3 percent increase retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018. Overall, this averages out to about $230 increase per month.
“I am disappointed in the percentage,” Aaron Rodrigues, a Cuesta political science professor said. “I was hoping for at least five percent raise for this year alone. [The] cost of living is very expensive here on the Central Coast. Cuesta faculty has long way to catch up.”
The agreement marks a temporary end to a long series of outcries by faculty, who have pleaded with the the administration to bridge the pay gap between Cuesta and 10 other comparable California community colleges. The agreement only boosts Cuesta from the 11th to the 10th lowest paid of the comparable institutions.
“This agreement is less than what faculty deserves,” Debra Stakes, president of the CCFT said. “It does not bring our salaries to the average of the comparable colleges. However, this agreement with the district means that CCFT has taken a significant step towards closing the salary gap that has existed for many years.”
The tentative agreement still needs to be voted on by the union membership before it will become effective. This ratification needs to be done by April 20 in order for the salary increase to take effect. If approved by the membership, this contract would remain in effect permanently.
The last tentative agreement was approved by a margin of only two votes — primarily because adjunct instructors came out en masse to vote against it.
This vote could face the same disapproval, as many angry and frustrated part-time faculty have been expressing displeasure in the “meager raise” in pay.
The negotiation comes in the wake of a recent “failed” nine hour meeting with a state appointed fact-finder where the discrepancies in pay between Cuesta faculty salaries and comparable California community colleges were heavily discussed.
“We began with the last potential agreement put forward by the fact-finder then worked toward a compromise settlement, said Stakes.
At the meeting, each party presented their argument to a panel composed of one neutral fact-finder and one representative from each side–where the outcome was described as “discouraging and insulting,” according to Stakes.
If an agreement was not reached, the CCFT was willing to strike, according to Baxley.
“There is a potential for a strike,” he said. “It is certainly not the outcome we would hope for, because it would be damaging to our students…and the institution’s reputation in the community.”
Prior to the agreement, Cuesta full-time faculty made $78,795 on average, while the average salary of the comparable institutions is $85,133. Over an 8 percent pay increase would be required to move Cuesta faculty salaries from the bottom to the average pay level.
“We have offered the faculty an offer similar to what other campus groups have accepted or received for the year 2016-17,” said Dan Troy, Cuesta’s assistant superintendent.
The gap between Cuesta pay and cost of living allowance had decreased since Stork assumed presidency in 2010. The disparity closed from 6.75 percent to 4.75 percent during the seven year period, according to data compiled by the CCFT. But the difference is not being closed fast enough according to Baxley.
During that time, faculty had been afforded a two 2 percent increase in 2014-15 as well as a 5 percent increase in 2015-16, according to the administration.
The pay discrepancies had prompted many full time instructors to take on teaching extra classes at other institutions, such as Cal Poly, to offset their lower salaries, according to Stakes.
Faculty had also negotiated for increased funding for personal time office hours to help encourage student success–where an agreement was also discussed.
Recently a salary increase had also been agreed upon by the district and another Cuesta employee union. The Cuesta College Classified United Employees (CCCUE) and administrators agreed on a 1.57 percent increase through 2019.[The agreement] is good for the CCCUE but does not impact the CCFT,” Stakes said. “Except we now know what [they] received.”
Faculty is hopeful that negotiations will continue to improve in the future as newly appointed Cuesta President Dr. Jill Stearns is set to assume command.
“Faculty will not be compelled to strike this year,” Stakes said. “We look forward to more amicable and collaborative negotiations as the new President begins July,  2018.”