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Amid tense talks, Community College of Philadelphia issues 'final' contract offer to faculty

Community College of Philadelphia President Donald Generals Jr. said it was time to complete contract negotiations and move the college forward.

Faculty protest lack of a contract last year at Community College of Philadelphia’s board of trustees meeting.
Faculty protest lack of a contract last year at Community College of Philadelphia’s board of trustees meeting.Read moreEd Hille / File Photograph

After more than two years of ever-more-contentious negotiations, Community College of Philadelphia and its faculty have failed to reach agreement on a new contract – and that's long enough, says the school's president.

On Thursday, the college made what officials called its "final" and "best" offer to the union, which represents about 1,300 full- and part-time faculty and support staff, and released the terms publicly.

"We have to move the college forward," said Donald "Guy" Generals Jr., president.

The contract, Generals said, would cost the college more than $10 million over its five years. Retroactive to Sept. 1, 2016, and running through Aug. 31, 2021, it would give union members more than a 10 percent cumulative raise, but seek heavier workloads for newly hired faculty as well as health care contributions.

Union members would lose a 2 percent wage boost retroactive to September 2017 if they failed to accept the offer by Aug. 1, Generals said.

No deal, said union leaders Steve Jones and John Braxton.

"Nobody's going to force their way to a settlement here," Jones said. "We're going to continue to bargain."

What happens next is uncertain. The apparent stalemate comes with the spring semester over and summer session underway.

A main point of contention has been the college's attempt to increase the workload of full-time faculty members from four courses a semester to five. On Thursday, the college said only newly hired faculty would be required to teach five; current instructors would have a choice. Those who opt for it would get a $9,000 increase in their base pay. Nearly a third of faculty already teach five, Generals said.

"Putting more full-time faculty in the classroom is a priority," Generals said. "Full-time faculty have the greatest impact on student success."

But Jones said the union fears the the proposal would actually result in fewer full-time faculty being hired and lessen the ability of the college to diversify its teaching ranks. It also would limit the time that instructors have to interact with students, he said, and result in layoffs of part-time faculty.

The pact also would require employees earning more than $40,000 a year to pay toward their health insurance premiums for the first time. Contributions would range from $16 per month for a single employee earning $40,000 to $88 per month for family coverage for an employee earning more than $100,000, the college said.

Union members, he said, have not been paying anything toward their premiums.

"It's hurting our bottom line," Generals contended. "It's not sustainable."

Jones countered: "We feel that we've been paying for the cost of the benefits we have in the form of lower salaries."

The minimum starting salary for a full-time faculty member is $50,529 and the average below $70,000.

Braxton added that for many union members, the health insurance costs would eat up the raises the college has proposed.

Union members have been operating under the terms of the old contract, which expired in August 2016. Negotiations have been tense. In February, members crowded a professional development session with signs, protesting the lack of a contract, and Generals for 15 minutes refused to address the group, declaring: "I will not be bullied."

In February 2017, the sides sparred over faculty's role in assessing whether courses are meeting their objectives in helping students learn.