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Details on contract recently approved by faculty, merit system yet to be established

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The Grand Rapids Community College faculty contract that was approved by faculty includes significant changes to the evaluation system and salary schedule.

Previously, faculty received an automatic, annual incremental pay increase capped at 13 years, and evaluations were done separately and were unrelated to that raise.

“Under the new schedule…there’s a system of merit evaluation to earn pay increases,” van Hartesveldt said. In order to receive the increase, faculty must pass the merit evaluation.

Though the details of the evaluation and merit pay system are still being discussed by the negotiating teams, a salary increase schedule is already established.

Upon earning merit, a faculty member can receive a raise every two years from hiring year to the 11th year, again on the 14th year, and then every five years until a cap at year 30.

Faculty will work on the merit documentation each year, even if they are not eligible for a raise that particular year, van Hartesveldt said. Though this evaluation system is not complete, it is slated to begin on July 1.

Another important part of the new contract involves a two-tier system, with newly hired faculty earning less than current faculty.

“Adjuncts could be teaching side by side teaching the same classes and earn different pay not based on their abilities but based upon when they were hired,” van Hartesveldt said. “And the same will be true for new full time hires. They won’t have the same earning opportunities over the life of their contract as current full time faculty.”

After almost two years without a contract, van Hartesveldt said it was time for a vote. Now that faculty has approved the contract, the next step is ratification by the GRCC Board of Trustees.

“We voted for two reasons: to keep things moving, and to finalize everything we have so far,” van Haresveldt said. “They (the GRCC Board) could ratify it without the merit system being complete because we had an agreement to refer the merit system to a third party to settle resolved issues.”

Van Hartesveldt said most students probably wouldn’t know about the contract negotiations because faculty have not brought the issue into their classrooms, but that may change if the board does not ratify the contract.

(If there’s) a ratification, students probably won’t be aware of any changes in the classroom,” he said. “But if things fall apart now after two years, everyone here will be unhappy. There’s a lot of work that faculty do beyond what the contract requires. I doubt that people will want to do more than the minimum if things fall apart.”

The faculty contract will last until 2016, when negotiations will begin again for the next one.