Florida State College at Jacksonville professors say they feel insulted because college officials are offering them lower-than-expected salary increases.
For the past few months, FSCJ has been negotiating a new contract with its faculty. Both sides have come to agreements on non-salary-related items, but professors’ pay is holding up the show. Professors are asking for a 3 percent increase this year and next, while the college is offering 2 percent this year and 2.5 for next year.
That may not sound like much of a difference, but the professors were expecting solid pay hikes this year after the college awarded hefty salary increases to 24 administrators in June [News, “Skewed Priorities?” Khristopher J. Brooks, June 18]. The administrator raises totaled more than $190,000, an average of $8,000 for each staffer. Those raises, coupled with new president Cynthia Bioteau’s public promise to bring professor salaries to the state average in the near future, made many professors thrilled to hear about possible salary increases. However, the last few negotiation meetings haven’t been pretty. In fact, both sides left the last negotiating meeting, on Sept. 5, visibly frustrated.
“Given the expectation created in public, we were extremely disappointed,” says Karen Morian, the faculty union president.
Internal email messages between Morian and other faculty members show that professors took the 2 percent offer as a “slap in the face” and “an all-or-nothing, take-it or leave-it proposal.”
FSCJ’s faculty union and the college officials have the same goal: bring professors’ salaries up to the state college average. However, the main obstacle is what salary numbers each side is using as a starting point.
Morian says FSCJ administrators are using salary figures that the college pulled from professors’ W2 forms. Those numbers do not reflect the professors’ base pay; for many professors, that number represents the base pay and two or three extra classes they teach each semester, Morian says.
When asked why the college couldn’t offer 3 percent raises, or how negotiations were going overall, FSCJ communications director Jill Johnson responded that the college couldn’t comment on ongoing contract negotiations. However, Bioteau sent a letter to all professors earlier this month, explaining why the college offered what it did.
“Our research indicates that this offer exceeds faculty salary increases offered this year by other like-size Florida state/community colleges and would bring FSCJ average salaries, over a three-year period, slightly above the state average,” Bioteau wrote. She added that the college’s “revenues will be limited” until FSCJ’s declining enrollment either levels off or increases.
“I want to assure you that administratively, we are bargaining honestly and in good faith, making our best effort to treat all employees fairly and equitably, while being good stewards of the lean budget that we have been allocated by the state,” Bioteau wrote.
No matter what numbers are being used, the ultimate truth is that FSCJ professor pay lags behind similar schools.
There are other colleges at which professors make less than at FSCJ, such as Gulf Coast, Hillsborough and Pensacola state colleges. However, when FSCJ is compared to similar-sized colleges, such as Broward, Miami-Dade, Valencia (in Orange County) and St. Petersburg, the annual salary difference ranges between $1,200 and $10,000.
FSCJ and its faculty union will have another open-to-the-public negotiation meeting on Oct. 6. Bioteau wrote in her letter that if both sides agree on salary terms, the pay increases would by approved by the FSCJ board later that month and higher paychecks would appear in November. If the sides cannot agree, the next negotiation will be in December.
Despite not having a new contract with its faculty, FSCJ’s classes have been held on schedule this year. Once a new contract is signed, it will apply to faculty members who were employed at the college starting July 1.
“Given the expectation created in public, we were extremely disappointed.”