There are still many more questions than answers at Erie Community College when it comes to the school’s serious financial challenges, but thanks to $2 million from the county executive, who is up for re-election next week, a tentative contract has been reached with the Faculty Federation representing 900-plus full and part-time faculty members.
“Everybody is feeling positive about it,” said Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick who is not sure if lawmakers have to approve the deal which will cost about $3 million over the next five years.
As we have reported over the last several months, morale has been very low at ECC, and the agreement, if ratified next Wednesday, will certainly help in that regard, as noted by the Andrew Sako, president of the union.
Sako said the proposed agreement, if approved by members, “ends over six years of contentious negotiations for a successor agreement. I believe that this proposed agreement honors our institution’s past, present, and future by increasing salaries that will attract and retain quality educational professionals.”
Still unsettled is a new agreement for more than 1,100 administrators although Hardwick said he believes that may be coming together in the near future.
Hardwick said the agreement with the Faculty Federation is the result of hard work by many people as the union and the college administration were barely talking last summer.
Under the agreement, faculty members will get 2 percent annual raises over the next five years and retroactive pay. There will also be buyouts for senior faculty as the college is dealing with a $1.9 million budget shortfall in the current year as a result of increasing health insurance costs.
While settling a major labor contract can only be viewed as good news for ECC, the school is still many challenges including a serious shortfall in the subsidy it is due from Erie County. ECC has been forced to drain reserves and increase tuition to stay afloat. We’ll have much more on those challenges in the coming weeks as well as the results of the first state audit of ECC in 20 years.