Clinical psychologists face pay cut in El Camino’s latest contract proposal
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While labor negotiations at El Camino College have reached a standstill, one major point of contention is the proposed pay cut for part-time clinical psychologists.
According to the current proposal from the El Camino College District, a new formula for calculating part-time clinical psychologist pay could cut their hourly rate from almost $75 per hour to $45 per hour.
This is part of the latest offer to the college’s faculty union, the Federation of Teachers, which will go to a state mediator if not agreed upon.
“If we went to $45, I would not be surprised if I did not have a staff left,” Student Health Center Coordinator Susan Nilles said. “It is just a total slap in the face.”
The Union reached out to members of the district involved in the negotiations via email, phone and in person, including Vice President of Human Resources Jane Miyashiro and Vice President of Administrative Affairs Robert Suppelsa.
Suppelsa told The Union that negotiations are not under his purview, however, he said that multiple items are connected and cannot be separated.
“It’s very hard,” he said. “It’s all tied together.”
Miyashiro said in an email “Negotiations are ongoing through the mediation process” and the items mentioned “have not been agreed to.”
The Union’s official policy is to only engage with sources in person or over a phone/Zoom call. Reporters are to refrain from text and email interviews.
Spearheaded by Nilles, the Student Health Center is one of the only services on campus that has a required health fee of $22 per semester and $18 during the summer.
Clinical psychologists work in the center, which assists students with outpatient clinical care, vaccinations, medications and mental health therapy. There are seven part-time psychologists employed that come from various outside practices.
Nilles said before the current contract proposal, clinical psychologists were paid “hour-for-hour.” However, within the new proposal, the unit of measurement for calculating the hourly rate has changed causing a cut in pay for the psychologists.
“If this goes forward, this cannot pass,” she said. “There needs to be a solution or an alternate rate of pay … we need something else.”
From protests around the college with bright red T-shirts and picket signs to dominating discussion during public comments at Board of Trustees meetings, the teacher’s union has been at odds with the district over multiple aspects of the new contract.
John Baranski, a history professor and member of the teacher’s union at the negotiating table, expressed his concern that despite the district’s apparent intention to assist, their proposed contracts exacerbate the situation.
“In the attempt to fix this overload pay issue, they also put forth something that will hammer non-instructional faculty who are part-time,” he said. “Both full-time and part-time people get crushed by this.”
The college’s proposal to reduce the hourly rate for psychologists would result in the college falling behind other local institutions including Cerritos College which compensates its clinical psychologists at a higher rate of $59 per hour, as specified in their contract.
The national average for a clinical psychologist in the U.S. is around $56 per hour and $57 per hour in the city of Torrance, according to ZipRecruiter, an online American employment marketplace.
“How come other districts can do it and we cannot,” Nilles said. “There never really seems to be an answer.”
Troy Moore, a chemistry professor and member of the faculty union, said faculty members with the lowest earnings are disproportionately left behind, while the college as a whole is declining compared to other colleges.
“It’s an insultingly low rate,” he said. “It’s so insulting and low that it’s just not competitive which means we’re not going to have people in that role.”
As someone who has used the clinical psychologist services, the Associated Students Organization’s Director of Public Relations Sabrina Rashiq, 20, told The Union she is “disappointed” with the district’s current proposal to cut psychologist’s pay.
“I believe, not only at El Camino, (but) at every single school in the district there are students who require more support and it’s the district’s responsibility to provide the support for those students,” Rashiq said.
Nilles said if the students were better informed of the district’s knowledge and indifference toward the matter, she believes it would be deeply offensive to them as well.
“In some ways, I feel powerless,” she said. “I think without the student’s support it’s just me saying this to a district that perhaps doesn’t care or best case scenario, wasn’t aware.”