Faculty unions at both of SLO’s public higher education institutions are in the midst of fierce negotiations for better salaries. While Cal Poly’s union is stuck in a tense gridlock with the state for a 5 percent raise that could culminate in a strike in April, salary negotiations at Cuesta College are moving forward with slightly better results for faculty.
At the first round of impasse on Feb. 9, the SLO Community College District offered a 4.78 percent salary boost to Cuesta faculty, up from the district’s previous offer in November of 3.21 percent.
“The offer was a significant step in the right direction, but less than faculty expected,” said Debra Stakes, president of the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers (CCFT).
The CCFT argues that the current salary schedule is woefully below comparable community college districts and has not kept up with inflation and SLO County’s rising cost of living.
With the district’s new offer came an unexpected budgeting caveat: It would cancel seven searches for open faculty jobs, including vacant positions in chemistry, history, mathematics, and computer information systems.
“The district canceled the faculty recruitments in order to reallocate the funds to the on-schedule offer made during mediation,” said Lauren Milbourne, a spokesperson for the district.
The notion that their raises would cause such collateral damage blindsided and upset the union. One of the grievances the CCFT has is that there is a lack of new and younger faculty at Cuesta.
“Faculty are angry about the ambush nature of the canceled searches and the loss of instructional positions,” Stakes said.
Milbourne told New Times that the search cancellations should not be viewed as an indicator for the district’s approach to adding faculty in the future.
“There is no expectation that the district will make hiring decisions based solely on faculty negotiations in the future,” she said.
Despite that controversy, the sides are inching closer to an agreement that could be finalized in the coming months.