There are communication issues coming from both parties that are hindering constructive progress between the part time–faculty union and the Ithaca College administration in their negotiations.
On the one hand, the administration is making broad statements about how the part-time faculty pay stacks up against that of other institutions in the “Northern region,” without being transparent on which institutions form the basis for this comparison and what the Northern region encompasses.
On the other hand, union representatives are making some proposals that might not be realistic in an institutional sense.
These negotiations became tense between the parties after the part time–faculty union walked out of a meeting with the administration Sept. 23, frustrated with the administration’s counterproposal of a 2 percent pay increase per credit taught.
This increase pales in comparison to the nearly 43 percent increase originally proposed by the part time–faculty union. Part-time faculty members currently make, at a maximum, approximately $16,800 a year. If the union were to accept the administration’s proposal of a 2 percent increase, the members still would not make enough to match the living wage in Tompkins County, which is $24,558. Given that the positions are part-time, there should be a middle ground struck that offers a pay raise substantially closer to a living wage but that is more digestible by those who configure the college’s finances. Perhaps then, the college would not dismiss these requests with references to salaries at other colleges.
If the standard of compensating part-time college professors is to pay them about 50 percent below what would constitute a living wage — while full-timers get double the living wage — then the college should reconsider and act as an independent leader in determining fair pay for its part-time employees.
However, the union’s proposal to take money out of the contingency fund to compensate for increased pay does not take into account its importance to the college’s operation — it can compensate for any shortfalls in enrollment or damages.
The administration should work with the union members to identify a funding source that satisfies both parties. And as the negotiating process continues, it is integral to the working conditions of the college’s part-time professors for the administration to negotiate with them in good faith.