Palomar College and its faculty union agreed Thursday that $2.8 million in state money aimed at boosting the pay of part-time teachers will be freed up, a move that clears a major hurdle toward finalizing a first-ever teacher contract, the college and Palomar Faculty Federation announced.
The agreement, which calls for raises of up to 2 percent to be paid retroactively to part-time teachers, comes on the heels of a call from the college’s governing board at its Aug. 10 meeting, led by board member Darrell McMullen, to use the so-called parity money. The estimated $2.8 million comes from the state’s general fund and has been accumulating in Palomar’s coffers since 2001.
Though both union and administration negotiators agree that the college’s part-time salaries are not competitive, the administration has held the view that the parity money should be paid out only when all elements of the contract were settled. Thursday’s agreement allows for that salary boost to be paid out as soon as September, with approval of the college governing board, even though contract issues remain.
Better pay for part-time faculty was a key issue that sparked the drive to organize a faculty union at Palomar in 2000. The part-timers, also known as adjuncts, said they were being paid about a third of what a full-time teacher makes for doing essentially the same work.
The agreement came in the form of a memorandum of understanding signed by the executive board of the union. The agreement is expected to be up for approval by the college governing board on Sept. 14, 2004.
Interim Palomar President Richard A. Jones said that the agreement will boost faculty morale.
“This is an exciting day for all of us at Palomar College,” he said, “and, without question, our students will be the ultimate beneficiaries of happier instructors … We’ve reached an agreement that is very good news. Our part-time faculty deserve this.”
Mary Ann Drinan, a member of the union’s bargaining team, said the agreement will help Palomar’s efforts to bring part-time faculty on board.
“I think that Palomar has significant problems attracting part-time faculty,” she said, “and so, institutionally, it’s important for them to increase wages to be more competitive.”
The college and the federation have been in on-again, off-again contract talks since August 2001. Jones has listed resolution of the differences as a top priority of his interim administration.
Board member McMullen said that if the agreement is formalized, it will hail a show of good faith between the union and the administration that might smooth the way for resolution of other outstanding issues in the talks.
Chief among those issues, said faculty Federation co-President Julie Ivey, are salary, benefits, workload and class size. She also said the agreement could lead to an acceleration of efforts to settle the entire contract. Neither the union nor the college would comment on the details separating them on those issues.
Said McMullen, who is one of seven candidates for three board seats up for election in November, “The bottom line is, let’s get the money out to the adjunct faculty. It’s pass-through money from the state, anyway.”
The agreement would add $4.28 to the hourly pay of adjuncts who have taught at least one semester since the fall of 2001. They now earn about $41 an hour.
Jones said adjuncts would see a retroactive 1.75 percent salary hike for 2000-2001 and a 2 percent hike covering the academic years from 2002 through 2004. Adjuncts are paid only for the hours spent in contact with students in a classroom.
There are nearly 300 full-time members of the faculty who are joined most semesters by about 800 adjuncts to teach as many as 30,000 students who enroll at the college.