New contract brings gains for community college adjunct faculty

MCCC Protest at QCC MCCCC members staged a protest at Quinsigamond Community College on April 25 after community college presidents tried to withdraw from their tentative agreement. Pictured are Lisa Cook, Kathi Lewando, Anne Shull, QCC chapter president Susan McPherson and MTA higher ed director Joey Hansen.

Amid growing concerns across higher education over “adjunct abuse,” more than 5,000 part-time faculty members teaching at the state’s 15 community colleges will receive wage hikes and improved job protections in a three-year contract covering members of the Massachusetts Community College Council.

The contract between MCCC members working in the Division of Continuing Education and the state Board of Higher Education stipulates pay raises of 3.5 percent in the first two years and 4 percent in the third year of the pact, as well as for a fourth year should a new contract not be settled. The raises apply to per-credit pay rates within a four-step pay scale.

“This is the strongest contract I’ve seen in years.”

- MCCC President Joseph LeBlanc

The new contract also provides part-time professors with additional pay to attend campus meetings and training sessions and enhanced compensation for lab instruction. It includes greater access to additional class assignments for veteran instructors.

“This is the strongest contract I’ve seen in years,” said Joseph LeBlanc, president of the MCCC, an affiliate of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Though the MCCC and the community college presidents who bargained on behalf of the Board of Higher Education reached a tentative agreement in January, the ratification process stalled when the presidents claimed they had miscalculated the new pay rate for instructors with lab courses.

When the presidents attempted to withdraw from the agreement, the MCCC filed a complaint with the Department of Labor Relations, and instructors demonstrated at a meeting of community college presidents held on the Quinsigamond Community College campus in Worcester.

“Our membership ratified the agreement by a vote of 2,001 to 92. There was no way we were going to start tinkering with a contract our members so overwhelmingly wanted,” LeBlanc said. “I’m just glad that the presidents saw fit to stick to the agreement and preserve the integrity of collective bargaining.”

The contract for the first time establishes system-wide salary steps, meaning that instructors teaching at more than one community college can petition schools where they are at a lower salary step to be moved to the highest step they have achieved at another college.

The contract provides for a streamlined grievance process and a more formalized system of performance reviews.

With more than two-thirds of the courses at community colleges now taught by part-time faculty, the MCCC has been fighting for several years to establish pay and benefit parity between adjunct professors and full-time professors.

“We still do not have full parity for part-timers, but this contract makes a step toward that,” LeBlanc said.

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