Administration and faculty dispute college’s ‘Golden Handshake’ retirement policy

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By Laura Hernandez

By Laura Hernandez

After their years of faithful service, the Riverside Community College faculty considering retirement are faced with a lack of concern from the district and little support from the Board of Trustees.

After Gov. Davis’s approval of AB 1207 on Sept. 5, 2003, the district is encouraging the early retirement of those employees who are eligible.

Provisions for the retirement program known as the “Golden Handshake” were still under negotiation during the April 22 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

At the Board meeting, the former president of the California Teacher’s Association at RCC, Dwight Lomayesva, addressed RCC President Salvatore Rotella and the Board regarding the faculty contract and the retirement situation.

Lomayesva stated that the district is concerned with saving money and not concerned with what their employees deserve.

The faculty is now under negotiations with the district regarding their new contract after the expiration of the old one on June 30 of last year.

District administration is interested in attaching the “Golden Handshake” to the negotiations for the new faculty contract.

The CTA requested that the two matters be settled individually but they were refused by the district administration.

The CTA presented the administration with a list of potential retirees. A cost analysis was also provided. However, the district has refused to share the information of the cost analysis with the CTA and continues with its efforts to tie the retirement negotiations with the faculty contract negotiations.

“Perhaps the most unconscionable action by the District is to gold those members of the faculty who want to retire hostage by refusing to negotiate the new STRA Golden Handshake separately from the regular negotiations,” Instructor Tom Allen said.

Negotiations for the faculty contract are not going well.

“The Association may file an unfair labor charge against the Administration for ‘regressive bargaining’ and perhaps declare an impasse,” Lomayesva said. “We do not want the retirement of our senior faculty to be mixed up in this quagmire.”

The contract is essential to preserve the rights and lay out regulations for the faculty. It is vital that the new contract be agreed upon as quickly as possible.

Rotella is not worried about the faculty’s benefits any more than the administration is according to Lomayesva.

“His contract was extended until 2008 with full benefits, including his ‘Golden Parachute,'” he said.

According to the faculty, Rotella has nothing to worry about concerning his retirement and therefore is not worried about the faculty’s benefits.

“How the Board of Trustees can extend the contract of our District’s president to four years and also give the president a half million dollar severance pay is puzzling,” Instructor Kathy Brooks said.

The Board of Trustees negotiated, evaluated and extended Rotella’s contract in one evening and provided him with hundreds of thousands of dollars more in addition to his regular retirement package.

To Lomayesva’s comment, Rotella replied, “There is no such thing. I have no parachute, neither golden nor silver.”

According to Viewpoints staff members present at the Board meeting, Rotella made no other comments about Lomayesva’s statement. He was unavailable for further comment.

Faculty members agree that it is a bad idea to tie the retirement plan with the faculty contract.

“It makes it harder for the retirees. Those faculty members who are considering retiring need time to make personal plans and the school will need to hire replacements,” Brooks said.

Apart from saving money at the cost of the retirees, the drawn out negotiations are making planning difficult for these faculty members.

“Maybe if a group of faculty got together to support the ‘Golden Handshake’ and attended the next Board meeting to voice the faculty’s concern over this issue, the Board of Trustees might begin to listen,” Brooks said.

The “Golden Handshake” situation did draw more faculty attention and attendance at the Board meetings.

“A lot more people showed up to the last meeting,” Brooks said.

Faculty members, especially those considering retirement, are making their presence known. According to the faculty, the Board cannot ignore a larger presence of the faculty concerned for the retirees.

“Even if the faculty is quiet at these meetings, just their presence sends the message, just their presence sends the message that they care about the issues that affect our colleges, our students and the faculty,” Brooks said.

Faculty members feel that the Board needs to see them involved to become informed about their concerns.

“I have come to the conclusion that the Board of Trustees has been getting most of the information it uses to make decisions from District leaders. So, sad to say, I am not surprised in the least that the Board as a whole is unaware of this critical issues confronting retiring faculty,” Brooks said. “I hope that the District’s disregard for our retiring faculty will finally outrage the faculty and unite us.”

The faculty is wondering why the District wants to save money at the retiring faculty’s cost.

“Several school districts and the Riverside County Office of Education have offered their faculty a retirement incentive that is just and worthwhile. Those districts did not try to pay their bills at the expense of their retirees, but attempted to give them a little something extra for a job well done and their loyal service to the district,” Lomayesva said.

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