Community College of Philadelphia Presents Best and Final Contract Offer to Unionized Faculty and Staff
Wage increases and premier health benefits offered after 14 months of talks
Philadelphia, February 23, 2012 — Following 14 months of negotiations to deliver a fair and affordable contract that avoids a major tuition increase, Community College of Philadelphia today presented a best and final offer to its unionized workforce and urged union leaders to reach an agreement that keeps the College’s 39,000 students on track for successful completion of the Spring semester.
Faced with reduced public sector funding and declining enrollment, the College nonetheless is offering a five-year contract that includes pay increases in four of the five years while also providing health benefits that are as good or better than those offered by any public employer in the Greater Philadelphia region. The offer, presented today to the Faculty and Staff Federation of Community College of Philadelphia, also includes generous retirement benefits and continues free tuition for employees and their families who attend the College. “We value the contributions of our faculty and staff, and we want to reach a fair and equitable agreement with the Federation that recognizes their hard work on behalf of our students,” said Stephen M. Curtis, President of Community College of Philadelphia. “We think that the offer we presented today reaches the limit of what the College can reasonably afford without requiring an unrealistic tuition increase, something that the College absolutely cannot support.”
Negotiations between the College and the Federation, which represents 1,167 full-time and part-time faculty as well as 232 classified or hourly staff, began in January 2011and have continued since the expiration of the current contract in August 2011.
The College’s offer includes a wage freeze in the first year of the contract, plus pay hikes totaling 10.5 percent over the next four years for full-time and most part-time faculty, and 10.95 percent for classified employees.
“The reality is that the College cannot go beyond these overall financial limits,” said Dr. Curtis. “We’re willing to negotiate within these parameters, but as far as the College’s ability to pay, this is as good as it gets.”
The contract also preserves largely intact the premium package of health care benefits now enjoyed by College employees, one that is considered as good or better than any other public sector health plan in the region. And like almost all public-sector employers, the College seeks health insurance reforms to battle skyrocketing costs, which today represent the fastest-growing segment of the College’s operating budget.
To achieve critically-needed savings, the College has adopted the recommendations of the union’s health insurance consultant by proposing insurance deductibles of $300 per individual per year, capped at $900 per family per year. In practice, the deductible component works much like an auto insurance policy: in other words, it is incurred only when used to cover major expenses, not normal visits to the doctor’s office, and only up to the limits of the cap in any single year. Employers all across the nation have adopted similar reforms, as well as requiring that employees share the cost of insurance premiums, though the College is not proposing premium sharing.
(A complete summary of the College’s offer is attached below.)
By contrast, the Federation has sought more significant wage increases and increases in health care benefits for part-time employees. Its proposals to date would cost approximately $7 million than the College’s best and final offer over the life of the proposed term, and the College has been steadfast in its opposition to them.
“In the midst of the worst economic recession of our lifetime, and at a time when government funding support continues to be reduced and student enrollment has started to trend downward, there is simply no way to justify proposals that call for major new wage and benefit increases,” said Dr. Curtis. “The Federation’s proposals would require an unrealistic increase in tuition, and the College absolutely will not ask students to bear that burden, especially at a time when students are paying a greater share of our operating costs than ever before.
Today, approximately 57.5 percent of the College’s operating budget come from student tuition, the highest level in the College’s history; in the coming year, that figure is expected to reach 60 percent.
“Asking students to underwrite unreasonable new raises and cost benefit increases is not fair,” said Dr. Curtis. “Our mission at Community College of Philadelphia is to provide quality education and access to opportunity. We are an educational and economic ladder to a better life for our students, many of whom come from the inner city.
“We must negotiate a contract that is fair and affordable, and today’s offer reaches the limits of what the College can afford to pay,” said Dr. Curtis. “I have instructed our negotiating team to be available to meet around the clock if necessary to reach agreement, and we urge Federation leaders to join them at the bargaining table so that we can bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.”