AFT Local #2375 – Representing Full-Time and Adjunct Faculty at Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville NJ
BRANCHBURG – With only a week to go before the start of classes, Raritan Valley Community College has not reached a settlement on a new contract with its faculty union.
The contract expired on June 30 but, according to a statement from Pattiann Kletz, the union president, negotiations have been continuing for nine months and a mediation session has been held to bring the two sides together.
“The union’s bargaining team has worked diligently to negotiate a contract that addresses the college’s fiscal situation and, at the same time, is fair to dedicated faculty members,” Kletz, a business professor, told the college’s board of trustees in June.
“Raritan Valley Community College deeply values the work of its faculty and staff and understands the challenges of the current financial climate, ” said Donna Stolzer, the college’s director of media relations. “However, the college cannot comment on current contract negations and believes that offers made at the table are confidential until settled.”
Kletz said the college’s offer does not keep pace with inflation, adding that the union’s latest proposal would save the college about $200,000 a year in various cost-cutting measures.
The college, faced with declining enrollment and the threat of less state aid, raised tuition 5.8 percent for the coming academic year.
The tuition increase, from $153 per credit to $162, came even as the college reduced its operating budget by $1 million to $54.5 million.
When the tuition increase was approved in March, RVCC President Michael McDonough said the college was also looking to the future by developing a new strategic plan and reviewing its operations.
“The strategic plan establishes a framework to face the challenges and opportunities confronting RVCC and the higher education landscape,” McDonough said. “The comprehensive operational plan sets in motion significant cuts in operational expenses; freezes open or unfilled positions; reorganizes administrative functions to better serve students; supports investments in new and innovative programs; recognizes the need for tuition increases; and, finally, identifies the need for the elimination of seven full-time administrative and support positions.”
“Faculty will continue to do their best for the students, but how can we continue to do all the extra unpaid work we do when we don’t have a contract?” Kletz asked the trustees in June. “The lack of a fair contract shows disrespect for our faculty and impacts morale across the board. Devaluing your faculty is never in the best interests of a college.”