Blue Mountain Community College finished laying off five full-time instructors last month as part of budget cuts, but the faculty union isn’t conceding defeat.
In a Friday interview, Blue Mountain Faculty Association President Sascha McKeon said the union is filing 10 grievances against the college for violating the collective bargaining agreement.
McKeon said the union sought the grievances — on behalf of five full-time faculty and five part-time staffers — because the college violated the contract’s “last one in, first one out” policy when it made decisions about who to lay off. Should the union prevail, the college would be forced to rehire the laid-off staff.
“We’d like to solve this problem together,” McKeon said. “And we think that there’s no reason why we can’t maintain the robust course offerings with our current faculty and adhere to budget constraints. They don’t need to be mutually exclusive.”
Enrollment has been declining for years. BMCC’s administration argued it needed to cut 10 full-time faculty positions to balance its 2022-23 budget. The faculty union negotiated privately and rallied publicly to save its members’ jobs.
The college administration eventually cut its layoff list to five full-time instructors, but union members had hoped they could avoid job cuts entirely.
BMCC President Mark Browning said he wasn’t surprised by the grievances, because the union had been open about legally challenging the college’s decision for months. He maintained his position that the collective bargaining agreement gave him the flexibility to make layoff decisions based on program enrollment and that retaining the five full-time faculty members would overburden the budget.
As the two sides prepare for mediation, both Browning and McKeon said the effort to resolve the grievances could drag on for an extended period of time.
“We’re trying to expedite it as much as possible just for resolution for those who are impacted – those five folks – so that they know what’s happening, as well as the college,” Browning said. “We need to close a chapter and move forward.”
McKeon said the union was amenable to reopening negotiations with the college during the mediation process. She said she remained confident that the union would win the grievances.
If the college and its faculty union fail to reach an agreement in mediation, the conflict will be resolved in arbitration.