PSC Makes Salary Proposal

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A message from President Barbara Bowen
May 20, 2015

At the contract negotiating session last week, the union presented an economic proposal for annual salary increases. The PSC bargaining team made the proposal in order to demonstrate to the CUNY administration—and to New York City and State—that we urgently need salary increases and that we are prepared to reach a reasonable settlement. The biggest battle for our contract remains the political battle, for funding to support increases, but the union bargaining team felt the moment was right to put a number to our demand.

The PSC proposed the following increases, compounded each year after the first: a 4 percent increase, retroactive to 2010; an additional 3 percent increase, retroactive to 2011; an additional 2 percent increase, retroactive to 2012; another 2 percent increase, retroactive to 2013; another 2 percent increase, retroactive to 2014; a 2.5 percent increase in 2015; and a 3 percent increase in 2016. The total proposed increase would be 18.5 percent, about 20 percent with compounding.

I want to emphasize that the salary increases above are the union’s proposal—they do not represent agreement by management, nor do they signal a commitment of public funding. CUNY management’s response was that the proposal is overly ambitious, but that they would take it under advisement.

The union also emphasized that our proposal covers salary increases only; there are other important economic demands, such as relief in the teaching load, that would require substantial additional funding. The PSC has historically negotiated within the annual salary amounts for equity increases for certain lower-paid positions, such as College Laboratory Technician and Adjunct Lecturer, or for additional amounts applied to top salary steps; we reserved the right to negotiate similar equity increases in this round.

Why this proposal and why now? The PSC negotiating team developed the proposal after an assessment of what is needed to make progress toward competitive salaries and what has been negotiated in the recent settlements by other unions of State and City employees. While a 20 percent increase would go a long way toward addressing our salary needs, even an increase at that level would not undo all the damage done to CUNY salaries through years of planned under-funding. At the same time, we felt that it was important at this stage of bargaining to present a proposal that bears a relationship to other recent settlements with education unions in the city and other public-employee unions in New York. For instance, other City and State public employees also received a 4 percent increase in 2010. Naturally, as a union proposal, the PSC’s salary proposal aims higher and represents a higher total than in other recent settlements, but it is a serious and responsible proposal in the current fiscal climate.

The moment is right for an economic proposal, in part because the legislative session in Albany is nearing an end and in part because of developments closer to home. Above all, the union leadership has listened to you. We are painfully aware of how CUNY’s failure to produce a raise hurts each one of us, whatever our position. We felt that we had to express concretely just how sharp the need is for higher salaries. The union had not presented a proposal earlier in negotiations because of the sensitivity of discussions about economics at the State and City levels.

There has not been a bargaining session since the union’s salary proposal was presented, and we do not expect an immediate response from CUNY management. But as a union we have made it clear that we are prepared to fight for raises, retroactive pay and other improvements. We will not succumb to the false narrative that there is no money for public institutions and no possibility of better working conditions at CUNY.

And we are making progress. The pressure the PSC applied to management through the March 31 demonstration and other actions has paid off: we have finally seen real movement at the bargaining table. For the first time, CUNY representatives have engaged in meaningful discussion of our major demands on non-economic issues, such as career advancement for colleagues in HEO titles and job security for long-term adjuncts. Any agreement reached is likely to reflect a compromise between the two sides, but there has been significant movement on management’s part and some promising discussion.

Meanwhile, the PSC leadership is conducting an aggressive, strategic campaign in Albany to tackle the root problem of failure to provide adequate funding for public higher education. I thank the 1600 PSC members who are wearing t-shirts about the contract and starting conversations with students and colleagues about our shared purpose. I also thank the more than 200 members who are now meeting with their local elected representatives, reinforcing the demand that Albany must act this session to resolve our contract. (You can still sign up—we need you! Click here to join.)

We are all in this fight together, whether the issue is salary increases or teaching load or equity for library faculty. Know that every action you take as part of the campaign for justice at CUNY advances our cause.