MCCC’s faculty began the semester without a new contract.
The Faculty Association, known as MCCCFA, is currently negotiating a new 3-year contract with the college. The previous contract expired Aug. 23, 2016.
The contract outlines faculty work duties, responsibilities, work load, benefits and salaries.
The faculty and the college began negotiating a new contract in February of this year, and as the expiration date drew closer, there was more urgency to reach agreement.
However, Aug. 23 came and went, and still no contract.
“We worked from February all through the summer — our negotiating team with the college, their negotiating team — with the intent that, from both sides, there was a commitment to completing negotiations prior to the last contract expiring,” said Tracy Rayl, Biology professor and MCCCFA chief negotiator.
Molly McCutchan is the director of Human Resources at MCCC and also the chief negotiator for the college.
She said there is no typical length for a negotiation period. It varies with every contract.
This year, however, there have been a number of proposed language changes to the contract.
“I don’t know if this contract negotiations is any longer than any other contract negotiations. I don’t think this is really atypical, the length of time that it’s taking,” McCutchan said.
On Aug. 16, commitments had been made on both sides to stay all day to try to finish the negotiation process so that a new contract could be presented on Aug. 22, Rayl said.
“At the end of that day, the college decided, no warning to us, that they wanted to go to what we call mediation,” Rayl said.
Faculty were not expecting that because both teams seemed to be working together to create a new contract, she said.
Mediation means that one of the two negotiating parties requests that a “mediator,” or unbiased third party, meets with both sides to try to bridge a gap between the parties to reach an agreement.
MCCCFA, the college’s faculty union, picks a negotiating team from within the faculty membership, and the college also has a chief negotiator and a team.
These two parties meet to discuss modifications to the faculty’s contract.
McCutchan said contract negotiations have gone to mediation as long as she has been at the college — the past 15 years.
“Generally, it has been part of the process in contract negotiations,” she said.
The college’s attorney was brought in when the mediation phase was reached, McCutchan said.
“We were blindsided by that,” Rayl said.
The faculty did not know an attorney would be present at the first mediation meeting.
“We were optimistic that we could complete this without mediation and without an attorney,” Rayl said.
Mark Bergmooser, the president of MCCCFA, said he was surprised that an attorney became involved with the negotiation process because he was originally told that an attorney would not be involved.
Regardless of the surprise attorney, Bergmooser said he thinks the negotiations are close to settling, with both the college and MCCCFA achieving their ultimate objectives.
“We’re hoping that the closer we get, nothing jeopardizes that. So I guess that makes it sensitive, but it’s not that sensitive that we can’t talk about it,” he said.
Bergmooser said that context is very important to MCCCFA and the college alike. Negotiations have been a part of the institution for nearly 40 years, and there is always increased sensitivity as the end of a discussion draws close.
The negotiation is a sensitive topic, partly because it has now gone on throughout the summer and into the new school year.
“Negotiations in general are intended to occur without an audience. It’s intended to happen between the two teams,” Rayl said.
During the negotiations process, it’s typically understood that the parties do not publically talk about the details of what is happening at the negotiating table, until there is a tentative agreement.
That agreement is taken to the faculty membership and the college Board of Trustees to be approved.
McCutchan hopes that, as the two parties continue to negotiate, there would be a final decision that serves both the college’s and MCCCFA’s objectives.
“We have a few outstanding issues, but I hope to find a resolution. We continue to negotiate in good faith,” she said.
It is important to the faculty and administration of MCCC that the college stays competitive as an institution.
“We want to remain competitive with neighboring institutions so that we are attracting the best and brightest to Monroe County Community College, so that we have strong faculty and programs to offer to the students,” Rayl said.
Rayl said that the MCCCFA team is optimistic that both parties can agree on a new contract in a timely manner.
The next negotiations session is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 20.