Faculty members and other professional members of a union at Monroe Community College-1,200 people in all-have been without a contract for more than two months, and progress toward a new pact has been slow as the sides continue to clash over faculty pay and benefits.
The faculty members have been working under the existing contract, per the provision of the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law. The sides last met in mid-October and have been working toward an agreement on how much faculty members will pay for benefits.
"The college wants employees to pay more for health care premiums, and we proposed to pay more but want an increase in salary to make up for it," said Bethany Gizzi, president of the MCC Faculty Association.
MCC officials would not discuss specifics of the contract negotiations but said the college was working in good faith to finalize an agreement as quickly as possible.
"Everyone is at the table, and we're working hard to reach an agreement," said Cynthia Cooper, MCC spokeswoman.
The faculty contract also covers technical assistants, advisers and professional staff, positions that Gizzi said are in need of salary increases to correct pay equity problems.
Also part of the discussion is the number of full-time faculty positions. Gizzi said the college wants the ability to change the number, while the faculty members are calling for any changes to be tied to enrollment.
Gizzi said the college has contended that because of lower enrollment there is greater concern about the budget.
After a surge in enrollment during the recession and its immediate aftermath, MCC officials had anticipated a drop this year. Faced with economic difficulties, college President Anne Kress said it was seen as a success just to hold the line this year.
But despite enrollment leveling off, there is still room within that budget for the increases faculty members are seeking, Gizzi said. As the negotiations drag on, the situation has begun to weigh on faculty members.
"This has already had an effect on morale," she said. "Faculty and staff are working just as hard, but people are getting disillusioned with how management is making decisions. We just want to feel we're valued partners."
Cooper agreed that there have been difficult times, but she said the college is seeking a collaborative approach in hopes of finalizing a new contract.
Gizzi said faculty members hope for a more transparent discussion and are willing to make more concessions to reach an agreement.
As of last week, no new meetings were scheduled between faculty and MCC, but Gizzi said they are seeking more information and hope to meet again soon.
Right now, she said, she is not feeling optimistic.
"Maybe a month ago I would've said we're getting closer, but at the last meeting we felt like we got further apart," Gizzi said.
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