Puma Press

Controversial pay inequality among MCCCD faculty slated for negotiation


Tony Craig, a professor of mathematics at PVCC, is one of the faculty who is suffering an inequality of pay due to the salary inversion created by changed hiring policies in the Maricopa County Community College District and a four-year freeze in faculty pay increases.

An unprecedented four years of suspended pay increases for Maricopa Community College District faculty, beginning in fiscal year 2007-2008, have led to an awkward situation where over 100 faculty members in the District are being paid less than new hires with the same or fewer years of experience.
Despite wide acknowledgment of the issue by District officials and being made a high priority by faculty senates across the District, the pay inequality between some older and newer hires, known as salary inversion, has yet to be resolved since it was first brought to the attention of officials over three years ago.

The salary inversion issue was selected in October to be one of six topics negotiated by a meet and confer team representing the MCCCD faculty. The salary inversion talks are currently scheduled to take place between January and February 2014.

Salary inversion was placed on the agenda after receiving more responses than any other proposed topic. The failure to address the inversion issue to date has hurt morale on campus, and tempered expectations for a positive result, according to several PVCC faculty.

Tony Craig, a professor of mathematics at PVCC, is one of the faculty who is suffering from the salary inversion. In 2004, after 22 years of teaching high school in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, Craig joined the District faculty. At the time, MCCCD policy dictated that the highest level new hires could come in on the salary pay scale, based on years of experience, was step six out of 13.

Three years later in spring 2007, however, the District revised its hiring policy, and began allowing new hires to come in as high as step 10 on the pay scale. Had step increases not been halted the very next year, faculty like Craig would today at least be caught up to people hired under the new policy. As it happened, multiple years of frozen salaries have created a situation where someone like Craig, with decades of teaching experience, is making over $10,000 less than someone with fewer years of teaching experience.

The situation stings for faculty like Craig, who actually took a cut in pay to begin teaching at MCCCD, but expected to eventually receive step increases.

“I’m at the end of my career; this affects my retirement,” says Craig, pointing out that retirement benefits are calculated based on an average of an employee’s last three years’ salary.

But Craig is heartened that the issue has been strongly championed by employees who aren’t directly impacted by the salary inversion. Faculty who simply feel the pay inequality is wrong are urging the District to resolve the problem, according to Craig and other sources at PVCC.

To help select which issues will be negotiated by a meet and confer team, the method through which issues are discussed with the MCCCD Governing Board, the team sent a survey to all residential faculty in the county. According to official minutes of the meet and confer team, posted on the Maricopa Faculty Association website, 210 District faculty members, 15 percent of total residential faculty, responded to the survey. The issue generating the most comments from faculty, 174 total, was salary inversion—remarkable because only a small minority of faculty are directly affected.

Survey feedback generated comments both in support of resolving the issue in favor of affected faculty, and those opposed to taking action. One comment posted in the minutes said, “(Salary inversion) should be the top priority this year. This issue demoralizes many very outstanding faculty; it needs to be readressed immediately.”

However, there were also comments against taking action to fix inversion, which would likely cost the District millions of dollars. One respondent wrote, “This should not be an issue. The deal was good enough to take when faculty was hired, so it should be good enough now. The fact that someone else got a better deal should have no more to do with this than if someone hired later got a lesser deal. Test: If Maricopa new hires were now paid less, should previously hired faculty take a pay cut? If no then this is not an issue.”

But to Craig and other faculty, the salary inversion, combined with the freezing of the steps, is undoubtedly unfair. Craig says he views the salary steps, presented at the time he was hired, as a promise by the county.

“I took a cut in pay to come here, knowing that with steps I’d get it back,” he says.

Neither of the co-chairs of the meet and confer team representing the faculty in negotiations, Dr. Irene Kovala, president of Glendale Community College, and Dr. Frank Wilson, chair of the mathematics division at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, would comment on the prospects for a resolution to the issue in the January negotiations.

But as he nears retirement and waits for a possible remedy to the pay disparity, Craig has been touched by the outpouring of support from his fellow faculty, especially ones who are already at the top of the pay scale and have no stake in the issue.
“That makes me feel good,” Craig says.

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