Bilingual pay

(Drafted by Peter Seaman on Sep 25, 2016)

According to our contract (16.323), APs who use a language other than English in their work may be eligible to receive extra pay. Here is the exact language from the contract:

16.323      An Academic Professional in a job assignment which requires bilingual skills (including sign language) shall receive additional premium compensation of 5% unless the bilingual requirement is already included in and factored into the job classification description. 

Note some important provisions:
  • To receive the five-percent premium, the bilingual requirement CANNOT be in your job description. That is, if you were hired into a position specifically because of your language skills, you are (at least in theory) already earning more money because you were placed at a higher level or step due to your advanced skills. The premium is designed to make up for "extra" work you are now doing that was not taken into account when you were hired.
  • How much extra work do you need to be doing to qualify for the premium? The rule is that 30% of your work needs to involve use of bilingual skills. There has been some confusion about where this figure came from, as it is not in the contract, but in 2016 PCC HR and the FFAP Labor Relation Specialist (LRS) confirmed 30% was the right number and it is currently accepted by both management and the union.
  • The key word in the contract is "requires," and management has asserted that THEY will determine whether or not the bilingual skills are required. Just because an AP can speak a language other than English doesn't qualify her or him for the premium, even if s/he volunteers to use the language. This last point is the sticky wicket, as they say, since management says that it is their prerogative to determine when use of a language is required.
A story from the summer of 2016 may help to illustrate this last point:

An AP who had been receiving the five percent premium suddenly discovered that it was missing from his pay stub. He asked his supervisor, who said he should talk to HR, who said that the premium had been eliminated at management's discretion. The AP contacted the union, who filed a grievance on the AP's behalf. At the step-one meeting to investigate the grievance, management produced figures that showed the AP was no longer using bilingual skills at the 30% threshold as required. The union asserted that management is still obligated to inform the employee and the union about a change in pay and working conditions, and management agreed to restore back pay up to the point where they would formally notify the AP that he no longer qualified for bilingual pay. The AP also agreed to the new working conditions.

Implications for APs

The word on the street is that management no longer wants to pay APs for using bilingual skills. In addition to the AP who had his pay taken away (in the story above), at least one other AP asked about qualifying for bilingual pay and was told that it will not be made available to her. The current climate might best be summarized by a comment made by an HR rep: "We are trying to run a business here, in a time of declining resources." Funny how this argument isn't marshaled when management wants to create a new executive-level position! (several were created just in 2016).

The really sad thing - and this point has been shared with HR - is that PCC leaders talk at great length about how much they value diversity and how they want to "internationalize" PCC, but then they are busy making sure that no AP gets the five percent bilingual premium. APs who have language skills want to use these skills for outreach in the wider community but are given no incentive to do so. Many APs volunteer to serve as translators for students and family members - there is even a "translators list" that APs have signed up for. But if the organization doesn't value these skills in any tangible way, why should APs go the extra mile for the organization? The contract language was bargained with the expectation that management would incentivize the use of bilingual skills, but if that isn't happening, maybe it's time for APs to withdraw the use of these skills and ask students, clients, and the public to "speak English, please," or "struggle along in English as best as you can."

A few tips:
  • If you are currently receiving bilingual pay, check your pay stub EVERY MONTH to ensure the premium hasn't been withdrawn without your knowledge. If it has, contact the union office immediately.
  • If you are in a bilingual position, check your job description and ask HR how you are being compensated for the use of your skills. You should have started at a higher level or step than similar positions which not bilingual.
  • If you have generously given of your time and energies to use your bilingual skills in support of the college's mission, and because you thought you might qualify for bilingual pay, think again. If the administration wants the benefit of your skills, you should be compensated for providing them. You can decide if you think that's a fair exchange, or not.