Transparency. It’s a word you will hear a lot as we navigate these budget reductions but what does it really mean? According to Webster, transparency is the quality or state of being transparent, which is characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices. Transparency doesn’t happen by accident. It takes conscious effort, patience, a willingness to ask questions and a willingness to listen. Most importantly, for transparency to have any legitimacy, it isn’t what is said but what is done. If words and actions don’t match, it means nothing.
At this point, we all want to know what is happening and how we are going to be impacted by these forces that are out of our control. And we deserve honest, candid, clear and detailed information from the people who make these decisions. There are the usual sources for information addressing budget reductions – College Council, PaRC, District Budget Advisory Committee, along with their shared governance subcommittees (FH and DA). Ultimately, they’re supposed to tell us what is going to happen but it’s the conversations in department meetings and communication from our supervisors, or lack there of, that tell the real story. It is also the point in this story where fact and rumor tend to become interchangeable, often with dire consequences. Before you repeat something, ask yourself how you know it to be true? I’m a big fan of getting things in writing. Ultimately, some people will lose their jobs, those left will lose colleagues, and neither of those scenarios are a desirable outcome. Be kind.
Here is were ACE needs your help. To get to the facts, ask questions. Where does the work go? What are our priorities as a department, as an institution? Shared governance meetings are open to all staff. If something seems off or you’re told not to ask questions or discuss changes, contact ACE. I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating “it takes active participation and commitment from all the members of ACE to effectively protect and serve the membership as a whole.”
Transparency also applies to ACE. What are we doing? Last September, we updated you on what ACE has done over the past year and that work continues. Our board members serve on all major shared governance committees and we are committed to sharing factual information through this newsletter, at site meetings, in conversations with members, and our website. You can help by sharing this information with your colleagues. One of our greatest strengths as an organization, and why we chose to be an independent, comes from our unfettered access to legal representation. It is this access which provides ACE with the experience, and leverage, we need when the District decides to not play by the rules. Read on to find out what ACE is doing today regarding negotiations, the classification study, seniority, and our role during layoffs, including what constitutes a reorganization and what your rights are if you are laid off.
Chris White, ACE President
(650) 949-7789, office
“The fight is never about lettuce or grapes. It is always about people”. – César Chávez
Negotiations Update: A Reality Check
The 2017-18 Governor’s budget includes a 1.56% cost of living adjustment (COLA). For Foothill-De Anza (FHDA), this translates to a little over $2 million. An additional $4.2 million in ongoing funding to our base apportionment was also included in the budget. Overall, FHDA received a little over $6 million in ongoing general funds for this year. Cognizant that a loss in enrollment means a loss in revenue – and potential layoffs for staff – in negotiations ACE proposed a one-time payment of $1500 per employee for 2017-18.
The cost for this one-time salary adjustment would be covered by the $38 million in one-time money – described as stability and carry forward funds – the District has been able to save over the past decade. The District has presented one budget town hall after another defining how $23 million of these funds will help us buy time as we work to increase enrollment (revenue) while permanently reducing our budget. In all of these scenarios, the one fund which never gets touched is the $15 million set aside as carry forward. These funds have been around for well over a decade and, for some unknown reason, continue to be off limits. Says who? Not the board of trustees.
On March 22nd, ACE received a response to our proposal. Due to the budget crisis brought on by declining enrollment the District emphatically informed us that no one would receive a COLA – either through a one-time payment or an ongoing increase – for the next two years. End of discussion. ACE’s response to this edict? No.
It is true that the District needs to permanently reduce ongoing expenses by $10 million. Continued enrollment losses this year most likely mean reductions are closer to $15 million. The District has had two years to reverse this trend and has been unable to do so. To be clear, the responsibility for this loss lies squarely at the administrations feet. Staff and faculty have gone above and beyond to assist in the recruitment and retention of students. To support this effort, ACE didn’t ask for compensation from ongoing funds so we could retain as many staff as possible to serve students and still give the District an opportunity to invest in the employees they purport to value.
The reality of the situation? We are going to be smaller in size and need to operate at a reduced budget level. ACE will do everything possible, including a closer review of temporary and district-funded student employees, to minimize reductions impacting staff but we can’t guarantee that everyone will have a position as the District works to adjust to a smaller budget.
Meanwhile, the District needs to continue to operate, classes need to run, supplies need to be procured and employees need to be fairly compensated. For FHDA staff, the cost of living continues to outpace any salary increase we have received over the past five years. If past experience is an indicator of future behavior, previous budget cuts and layoffs have shown that staff will be expected to take on more work with no additional compensation. If we are truly going to address this budget crisis for what it is, a permanent reduction, any budget talk moving forward needs to include some form of compensation increase.
In other words, ACE will be going back to the table to get a pay increase that we deserve!
Classification Study: What The Delay?
So what is the delay? I went directly to our consultants to ask. Their response “We are working through some issues with the ETS classification specifications to ensure that they are reflective of the work being performed as well as the needs of the department, colleges, and District. The classification concepts and series has been areas where we needed further clarification and an overview perspective, which we are working through with ETS senior management. For example, we want to ensure that the classification specifications and structure reflect appropriate career paths and development opportunities for employees. Also, technology changes so quickly and so we want to ensure that the classification specifications are written in a way to incorporate changes in technology.” ETS is the final group of classifications we are waiting on.
As has been stated numerous times, nothing affects compensation more than properly assigned classification. It is in our best interest to be patient and thorough.
Where does that leave us? Koff has stated the final class descriptions should be delivered by the end of this week. The Joint Labor Management Classification Committee (JLMCC) has a meeting scheduled for April 26 to review the recommendations, develop an appeal process and set dates for drop-in questions with Koff.
What you really want to know. If the class descriptions are delivered by the 25th, look to have them distributed the first part of May.
Seniority List Update
Currently, the way Banner is calculating data for seniority isn’t correct and we are working with human resources and ETS to get this addressed as quickly as possible. This is a priority for everyone involved and it is imperative that the list be as accurate as possible before reviewing any data with members.
Layoffs – Management Rights, Your Rights
The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has determined that it is solely a management right to implement a layoff as defined under California Education Code §88017.
“Classified employees may be laid off either for a lack of work or a lack of funds. The employees to be laid off at the end of the school year shall be given written notice on or before April 29 informing them of their layoff effective at the end of the school year and of their displacement rights, if any, and reemployment rights. However, if the termination date of any specially funded program is other than June 30, the notice shall be given not less than 60 days prior to the effective date of their layoff”.
- Lack of Funds – When a school district no longer has sufficient funds to support the positions at the college.
- Lack of Work – When a position, and the work that belongs to that position, is no longer needed at the college.
During budget cuts, the District will cite a lack of funds as the rationale for the layoffs. However, there is an order that must be used when determining the individual who are laid off.
Seniority – California Education Code §88127 – “Whenever an employee is laid off, the order of layoff within the class shall be determined by length of service. The employee who has been employed the shortest time in the class, plus higher classes, shall be laid off first. Reemployment shall be in the reverse order of layoff”.
ACE’s responsibility during a layoff are too:
- insure the accuracy of the seniority list;
- meet and confer with the District regarding any classification changes or reorganizations due to layoff; and
- whenever possible, work with the District to place affected workers into vacant positions which they are qualified but do not have any right to the position. In the past we have been successful with this approach, but to be clear, the District is under no obligation to do this.
What happens to the work of laid off positions?
Every department suffering a position loss must re-organize itself, re-set its priorities or simply do without. Reality? The work will most likely be distributed among the remaining employees in the area. To that end:
- A classified employee may not be laid off if a short-term employee is retained to render a service that the classified employee is qualified to render.
- No one can do overtime to replace the work.
- No one outside the unit can do the work after the position is eliminated.This includes temporary workers, students, faculty, administrator or outside contractors.
- An employee cannot be given more work than they can complete in an 8-hour day.
- If you feel that you are being assigned more work than you can possibly complete in one day, do not work more than the 8 hours without your supervisor first approving overtime.
- If you do not have enough hours in the day to complete the extra work, request a meeting and have your supervisor prioritize your work. You may request an ACE steward be present at this meeting.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your ACE representative so we can address the issue. This is especially true if:
- You are laid off and you know there are duties in your job that cannot be dropped (e.g. mandatory reports you prepare) and there is no plan to have it done within the unit.
- You are uncomfortable telling your boss any of these things or you do tell them and they ignore you.
What constitutes a reorganization?
A reorganization may occur for various reasons, including:
- Improving business efficiency
- Reducing costs/budgetary reasons
- Repositioning/aligning business units
- To meet the strategic needs of the College/District
- Provide a better service model
Some examples of what may be included in a reorganization include:
- Change(s) in reporting relationships, supervisors and/or location
- Creation of new departments; dispersing of existing departments
- Creation of new positions; reallocation of existing vacant positions
- Reclassification of multiple positions in conjunction with other actions
- Reduction in Force
How does a reorganization work?
Articles 7 & 15 of the ACE Agreement cover the steps for implementing a reorganization. Some of the basic rules include:
- When a supervising manager plans to reorganize his or her department, the District shall notify the Union and the appropriate chief steward in writing prior to implementation to provide for an opportunity to meet and confer. If the Union does not respond within 15 working days, the changes shall be implemented as proposed.
- The notification shall include: the proposed changes; impact, if any, on workers; date of proposed implementation; and the reason for the change.
- If there is a request to meet, the parties shall meet and confer over the impact of the proposed reorganization.When appropriate, such discussions shall include identification of tasks and priorities of positions.
- If no agreement is reached regarding job classifications effected by the reorganization, the parties will appeal to the Vice Chancellor of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity. Within thirty (30) working days of receiving an appeal the Vice Chancellor will render a written decision.
- The decision of the Vice Chancellor of Human Resources may be appealed to a neutral party, jointly selected by the Union and the District. Within thirty (30) working days of receiving an appeal, the neutral party will render a final written decision.
- The final decision of the neutral party will be binding.
If you have questions about the possibility of a reorganization in your department, please contact your ACE representative.
If I am laid off, do I have reemployment rights?
Yes, under California Education Code § 88117:
- A person laid off because of lack of work or lack of funds shall be eligible for reemployment for a period of 39 months. The person’s reemployment shall take preference over new applicants.
- If the person is reemployed in a new position and fails to complete the probationary period in the new position, he or she shall be returned to the reemployment list for the remainder of the 39-month period.