CCSF Board of Trustees President Raphael Mandelman (right) and board member Alex Randolph (left) listen as Chancellor Susan Lamb speaks during a press conference at the CCSF Ocean campus in San Francisco on Thursday. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

CCSF labor dispute ends as college prepares to face fiscal cliff

City College of San Francisco averted a potential strike when it settled a long-standing labor dispute with the faculty union this week, offering some relief for administrators as the college prepares to fall from a fiscal cliff.

At a news conference at the main campus Thursday morning, school leaders praised the tentative agreement reached earlier this week between the administration and faculty union after more than a year of negotiating a new contract for educators.

A strike this school year could have had a negative impact on enrollment when what the college needs most is to increase its student population, Board of Trustees President Rafael Mandelman told reporters.

That’s because this school year is the final year of additional state funding for the college, meant to offset the loss of a third of its students in the last several years. This year, the state allocated $26.5 million in stability funding for the college.

Interim State Chancellor Erik Skinner characterized the college’s financial situation as potentially “devastating,” according to transcripts from a fact-finding meeting about CCSF’s contract negotiations last week.

“I have not seen a community college district facing a fiscal cliff like the one that City College faces with the drop off from the stabilization,” Skinner said. “Unless the appropriate planning is put in place and prudent decisions are made to back that up, I don’t know if the college survives that.”

To complicate matters for the administration, the faculty has shown its willingness to strike.

In April, the faculty union held a one-day strike that forced the administration to close down at each of its campuses. Tensions continued into June, marking one year of work without a contract for faculty members.

But on Monday night while meeting before a mediator at the recommendation of a neutral factfinder, the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 and CCSF administrators reached a tentative agreement.

“Maximizing our enrollment this year is critical and the prospect of having strikes going through this year and potentially deterring folks from coming was tremendously worrying to us,” Mandelman said. “I’m just really gratified. I think all sides recognized that we needed to get this done before the beginning of the fall semester.”

The proposal includes an 11.4 percent salary increase for faculty members over a three-year period, but some of the increases are dependent in future years upon rising enrollment and the extension of a parcel tax.

“We have arrived at an agreement that is fiscally responsible but also provides relief for our faculty with the hope that as we build our enrollment, they will see the benefit of that as well,” Mandelman said.

After the 2017-18 fiscal year, two percent of the increase is contingent on San Francisco voters extending a parcel tax in November that pumps millions of dollars into the college — money which is crucial for the college to stay afloat with stability funding ending.

Faculty wages are also being restored 3.7 percent for wage cuts from 2011-12.

The tentative agreement was expected to be voted on at the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday and by faculty members in September before it is set in stone.

Among other conditions, the agreement will not move forward unless both sides withdraw the unfair labor practice complaints levied against one another throughout the one-and-half year ordeal.

Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb said Thursday the successful negotiation should signal to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges that the college and its faculty are moving forward as a community.

“Having contentious negotiations obviously compromises that,” Lamb said. “Any time that you hear in the press there’s negotiations going on, we had a one-day strike earlier this year, you know, it casts a little bit of a shadow over the institution.”

The statewide commission is expected to decide whether CCSF remains accredited in January 2017, which will determine if the college can continue to receive state funding. CCSF is open and fully accredited today.

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