August 11, 2014
Momentum is growing in negotiations for a new contract, with two formal bargaining sessions and several subcommittee meetings held during the last month. Both PSC and CUNY management representatives have expressed a commitment to reaching a settlement as expeditiously as possible, given that several other public-employee unions in the city have already completed bargaining.
Adjunct Health Agreement a Victory for All
A major advance occurred last week, when the union won our 14-year campaign to transfer responsibility for adjunct health insurance from the Welfare Fund to the University. The adjunct agreement means that one of the union’s major goals for this round of bargaining—equity in health benefits for adjuncts—has already been largely achieved. It also means that in these contract negotiations, unlike many in the past, we do not start with a crisis in the Welfare Fund to resolve. The agreement helps to stabilize the finances of the Welfare Fund, which provides supplemental health benefits to faculty and professional staff. It is a material as well as a moral victory for all of us.
Productive Discussions, But No Economic Offer Yet
Discussions at the bargaining table have been productive, as have the discussions in smaller subcommittee meetings on specific contract issues. In this round of bargaining, the labor and management negotiating teams have agreed to do some preliminary work in subcommittees in order to make progress quickly. The two formal sessions in July focused on management’s preliminary response to our demands, the union’s response to theirs, and the PSC’s detailed presentation of certain demands.
CUNY management representatives acknowledged the importance of raising salaries, especially after the long wait for this contract. On the other hand, they stressed that they will have to work within an economic package approved by both the City and the State. CUNY contracts typically take longer to resolve than those of many other public-sector unions.
The union bargaining team understands that dynamic, but we also know that PSC members cannot wait much longer for a raise. We have pressed CUNY management to make an economic offer—one that will lift salaries and provide financial relief to our members. Management has not put an offer on the table, but we have had promising discussions of economic needs.
The PSC presentations at the bargaining table have focused on the urgent need for salary increases, and at the same time the importance of addressing other longstanding needs. The union continues to raise four overarching priorities: the need for more competitive salaries, especially given that CUNY recruits nationally; the need for a more reasonable teaching load for full-time faculty; the need for HEOs to be able to advance in their careers; and the need for progress toward equity and fairness for adjuncts. We recognize that these will be difficult to achieve at a time of continued austerity politics and limited collective bargaining settlements, but the quality of education at CUNY depends on the quality of our working conditions. CUNY will not be competitive nationally—or reach its full potential for the people of New York—if it does not invest in its entire faculty and staff.
The union has also begun detailed presentation of specific demands. At the July 30 session, library faculty representatives made a compelling presentation on the need for equity with other faculty in annual leave and research time. The PSC bargaining team is working with other groups to prepare presentations of specific demands. Meanwhile, we have indicated to CUNY management that we are willing to work with certain proposals they have made, but that we will not compromise on fundamental issues, such as the preservation of salary steps—rather than management’s proposal of discretionary increases under the control of college presidents.
(If you would like to attend a negotiating session, tell us by sending a message here. The PSC bargaining team will do our best to accommodate you. With some preliminary negotiations occurring in subcommittee meetings, however, there may be fewer formal bargaining sessions than in the past.)
Contracts are won by the power of the union members, not by the bargaining team. The PSC bargaining team will need your help as negotiations intensify or if we need to call for movement on economics. Please be ready to join in speaking up for our needs and fighting for a contract worthy of the work we do. The PSC has seen before, and we will see again, that our collective pressure on management works.