Faculty at Spoon River College say they are "frustrated and disappointed" about contract talks with the community college’s administration. Teachers have been working without a contract since their previous six-year deal expired in mid-August.
During the Board of Trustees’ October meeting in Rushville, SRC Faculty Association President Stacy Swanson said the administration’s contract proposals discourage professional development and remove caps from insurance increases. She also said SRC’s faculty members are the lowest paid community college teachers in the state.
“While we understand the difficult economic situations we face, it is important to note that our administration and other employee groups fare much better compared to the state averages. For instance, our administration has the second highest pay among our sister institutions,” Swanson said.
SRC President Curt Oldfield said there is a reason why SRC teacher pay is comparatively low.
“We’ve had a number of retirements so our average wage would be less because we have more people who are newer to teaching than maybe some of our peers,” Oldfield said. He added both sides are trying to do the best they can for the constituents they represent.
SRC Faculty Association Secretary Kay Norton said the administration is offering a pay increase of just 1.24% increase. She said it would not be retroactive to mid-August, whereas she said the administration and professional support staff received a 2% increase that is retroactive.
“I’d really like to see a more positive approach to the whole negotiation process on the part of the college. I’d like to see a more respectful attitude in terms of the equitable proposals that they’re making to the faculty,” Norton said.
Contract negotiations began seven months ago but previous President Robert Ritschel left office in May so Oldfield said there was a period of time during which no talks were held.
Oldfield said progress is not being made as quickly as everyone would like but he believed both sides will end up with a fair and equitable contract.
“I’m convinced that both sides are approaching it the right way. The faculty are representing their interests in a fair and responsible manner. I think the Board of Trustees is approaching the negotiations with a very strong awareness of the current economic times and the challenges that are facing the taxpayers of the district,” Oldfield said.
The two sides agreed to have a federal mediator join them for the next bargaining session. Norton said there will be at least two mediation sessions before any further decisions are made.
“It’s to the benefit of the vision, the mission, and the core values of the college to be able to not have any interruption in the educational instruction,” Norton said.