By EDDIE CELAYA
A mundane topic of labor discussions has evolved into a sharp point of contention between Pima Community College and its three largest employee organizations. The disagreement centers around a process called “meet and confer.”
Pima Community College Education Association Vice-President Matej Boguszak said in an email that meet and confer was important on multiple fronts.
“It is what substitutes for collective bargaining at Pima and at many other community college districts across the state,” he said.
Libby Howell, PCC spokeswomen, said that is not the case. “Meet and confer is not collective bargaining, it’s not a negotiation and it does not result in a binding contract,” she said.
Boguszak and PCCEA contend the guidelines for meet and confer have consisted entirely of Higher Learning Commission-related topics the past two years.
“We were asked to focus solely on HLC compliance, reduction in force (layoff) policies, and were not allowed to discuss salaries/raises due to the poor financial state of the college,” he said.
That’s not usual, according to Boguszak.
“More typically, faculty and administration both bring a list of topics/priorities they feel need attention and jointly agree on (or negotiate) which ones to tackle,” he said.
The administration takes a different view. Howell said that the Personal Governance Task Force, which was set up to handle issues with human resources as well as “be more inclusive of employee input.”
Both sides point to a specific policy to support their point: Board of Governors Policy 1.25.
The task force met twice, according to Howell. “What’s most noteworthy is that the PGTF developed the new framework by consensus, meaning all committee members agreed with it,” she said.
Again, Boguszak believes that consensus is a matter of perspective. The PGTF “had met during Fall 2015 to address the issue of redesigning BP 1.25 and Meet and Confer, but it has not finalized any specific recommendations and has not met since,” he said.
The policy, which is another point of contention, was up for discussion at the last Board meeting on Nov. 16. A change in language was proposed, changing the key wording from “assist” to “inform.”
“The proposed language changes to BP 1.25 were presented as minor adjustments made to reflect current practice and the extent of the board’s involvement,” Boguszak said.
He and PCCE fear that the change could “potentially contribute to a diminished employee voice.
The administration and Howell find those fears unfounded. She points out that the three employee organizations, including PCCEA, cannot provide the only employee representatives during meet and confer meetings.
“Similarly, membership in these organizations at Pima is voluntary, and not necessarily representative of the majority of employees,” Howell said.
With both sides seeing the negotiations in such different terms, a contentious atmosphere awaits the meetings, scheduled for sometime in the spring semester.
Boguszak harbors some hope, though.
“I truly believe we’re all in this together to create an environment that best supports the work faculty do with our students,” he said.