Ocean County College, Union Battle Over Raises, Back Pay and Non-Union Instructors
TOMS RIVER — Ocean County College faculty members, who have not had a new contract for three years, are battling with management over raises, retroactive pay and a slow move toward non-tenured teaching positions.
The Faculty Association of Ocean County College, or FAOCC, saw its last contract end in September 2019, with no new deal since then, according to Union President David Bordelon.
“We were teaching the entire time,” he said about the pandemic that first struck area schools in March 2020. “We were on spring break when the shutdown happened. We started all online after the spring break and we have not stopped teaching since.”
But college officials contend they have been eager to meet and talks only stalled when the union filed for mediation in 2020 and sought a fact-finding report in 2021 from the New Jersey Public Employee Commission (PERC), which is still pending.
“Since the start of negotiations in January of 2019, the college has been committed to remaining at the bargaining table with the Ocean County College Faculty Association (FAOCC) and reaching a successor agreement,” OCC Spokeswoman Dori Londres said in a statement. “Throughout this period of time, OCC made numerous offers to return to the table which were not accepted by the FAOCC.”
Bordelon said 15 negotiation sessions have been held since 2019, but one of the sticking points is the college’s refusal to ensure retroactive pay for the three years that have passed since the last agreement.
“The college wants to make some changes to the contract that will limit our ability to work for extra pay and deny retroactive pay,” Bordelon said.
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Londres offered no comment on specific negotiating proposals.
The previous four-year deal included annual pay hikes averaging about 2%, Bordelon said. But that agreement took six years to complete and also included no retroactive pay, Bordelon said.
“For nine of the last 13 years – almost 70% – FAOCC teachers have worked without any salary increase,” Bordelon said. “When combined with lack of retroactive pay, the result is tens of thousands of lost income over the course of a career.”
In addition, the union objects to the institution of more non-union, non-tenured teaching position that have helped reduce its membership from 120 in 1995 to just 36 this year.
“They started a number of years ago to hire lecturers and they said they were administrators, but they would teach a full load of classes,” said Neil Schiller, FAOCC chief negotiator. “They started giving them assignments and would take work away from us that we had normally done.”
Londres confirmed the lecturers have been hired regularly since 2010, but said the positions are not identical to tenured professors and are allowed under current labor practices.
“Ocean County College has a well-established right to hire non-represented college lecturers,” she said via email. “Lecturers are highly qualified with advanced credentials and are well-respected members of the college community. OCC does not employ lecturers to save money or harm any other member of the college community, but rather to meet the needs of today’s students and help the institution to thrive.”
The union sought to oppose the lecturer hiring in 2010 when it filed an unfair labor practice charge with PERC that claimed the move violated collective bargaining rules.
PERC ruled in the college’s favor in January.
“The unfair practice charge demanded that all lecturers be required to join the FAOCC bargaining unit and/or the College be prohibited from hiring more College Lecturers,” Londres said. “However, the PERC decision affirmed that college lecturers have significantly different responsibilities and that OCC has the right to employ lecturers.”
Joe Strupp August 19, 2022
Asbury Park Press
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