At first glance, the proposed contract settlement struck in May between SUNY and the United University Professions (UUP), which represents SUNY faculty and staff, seems simple enough: 2 percent annual raises over the six-year life of the contract, a first-time minimum pay floor for adjuncts and an inclusion of UUP members in the state’s paid family leave program.
UUP President Frederick Kowal
But the agreement is actually slightly more complex than it has been reported. On the one hand, the contract, which runs from July 2, 2016, until July 2022, includes 2 percent annual raises – a similar provision to what two other unions, the Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association, have also reached with New York State.
However, according to a memo from the UUP explaining the deal, “In each of the final four years, it includes an additional 1 percent pool of on-base money split evenly between dollars for discretionary salary increases and money dedicated to address salary inequity and compression. The first year’s discretionary payment, though not to base, provides for a $600 lump sum payment to full-time employees, prorated for part-timers.”
SUNY employees, unlike PSC members, do not receive step increases – they may receive increments to salary at the chancellor or their college president’s discretion.
The UUP’s explanation continued, “With the across-the-board increases, members will see an effective increase in their paychecks of 6.1 percent compounded as soon as practicable following ratification. Over the life of the agreement, the across-the-board increases will boost salaries by approximately 12.6 percent compounded.”
It’s difficult to compare the SUNY adjunct deal to the PSC demands, as SUNY adjuncts have been paid differently than CUNY adjuncts. While part-time faculty members at CUNY and SUNY have been demanding better pay, CUNY adjuncts have been demanding a raise to their contractual minimum wage, whereas SUNY adjuncts never had a minimum wage until this contract. As of July of 2019, the new minimums will be $3,000 per course for part-time faculty at university centers and health science centers and $2,500 at comprehensive and tech campuses – those numbers will rise, over time, to $3,750 and $3,250, respectively, by July of 2022.
By contrast, CUNY adjunct lecturers earn a minimum of $3,222 for a three-credit course per semester.
It is not immediately clear how much beyond these minimums many adjuncts earn per course across the state and how many adjuncts will experience significant increases. The UUP summary indicates that SUNY adjuncts paid at the minimum will see a 25 to 30 percent increase in pay per course between 2019 and 2022.
The UUP memo states that the “contract establishes an executive-level labor-management committee charged to develop a methodology for analyzing and addressing salary compression on campuses for full-time and part-time employees, and provides that each campus will devote on-base discretionary funds to redressing salary inequities.”
PSC leaders point out that adjuncts at CUNY have different needs. After all, the minimums in the UUP pact are a new feature for SUNY, and while many adjuncts may earn much more than that at certain SUNY campuses, the cost of living for CUNY faculty is often much higher than for SUNY faculty in upstate areas. “The PSC remains dead-serious about addressing erosion of all salaries and continuing our fight for $7K,” PSC President Barbara Bowen told Clarion.
Also notable in the contract was the inclusion of UUP members in the state’s paid family leave program – it’s a first for a public sector union since the program was enacted as a law affecting private companies in New York State earlier this year, although full-time PSC members have enjoyed contractual paid parental leave since 2009.
While the healthcare plan for UUP members doesn’t change significantly, there are a few cost increases – the most significant increases are a $95 ambulatory surgery copay (a $35 increase) at in-network hospitals and a $50 ambulatory surgery copay for “participating medical professionals” (an increase of $20).
The state will also realize cost savings on the health benefit front by ending the “opt-out program” next year. “This program, first implemented with the 2014 plan year, allowed certain employees who have alternate (non-NYS) health insurance coverage to receive a cash credit for opting out of [state coverage],” the memo said. “Employees who have alternate coverage may still choose not to enroll in [a state plan] (thereby avoiding the bi-weekly cost of the employee share of premium), but will not receive the additional cash credit.”
The contract must still be ratified by the membership this summer before it is fully implemented. UUP President Frederick Kowal said in a statement, “This is a fair and equitable agreement that meets the unique needs of our members and provides them with reasonable salary increases, paid family leave benefits, a new minimum salary for part-time faculty and other enhancements that address members’ concerns.”