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Home » Clarion » 2024 » June 2024 » Staff say they’re overworked: survey

Staff say they’re overworked: survey

Understaffing is impacting our membersBy ARI PAUL

Professional staff and library faculty at CUNY who are represented by the PSC have spoken, and they have spoken clearly: They are working a lot more, and with fewer resources, than they did in the past.

In a survey commissioned by the PSC with the assistance of the New York State United Teachers, the union’s statewide affiliate, 52% of members in non-instructional titles said their workload has “increased significantly” over the last four years, while 33% said that their workloads had “increased somewhat.” Only 2% reported that workloads had “decreased somewhat” and no one said workloads had “decreased significantly.”Horizontal bar graph on survey results for HEO workload survey

The survey was sent to the union’s members in higher education officer, college laboratory technician and library faculty titles. Thirty percent responded. Full results of the survey are forthcoming.

MOTIVATION

PSC First Vice President Andrea Vásquez said the union issued the survey because “we realized that over the past year there had been a serious increase in the number of calls and complaints we were hearing about the loss of staff and unmanageable increases in workload” and that the union wants “to quantify what we were hearing in order to better understand what was actually happening in departments and offices across the university.”

A whopping 71% of those surveyed reported “understaffing” was the source of the increase, while 51% said that the nature of the work had changed. “Added programs and systemic issues…create more work, and the loss of personnel from our department has also caused me to be pulled to do more customer service work with students, taking time away from me to do the multitude of back-end work needed” for the job, reported one member.

Staff are “always being asked to do more with less resources,” reported another, while another said, “Fewer staff means more responsibilities.” Others blamed budget problems: “Insufficient funding for our program…has required us to consistently diversify in order to prove our program’s worth,” which has caused a workload increase, said one member.

The overall picture that professional staff painted is that offices are slow to replace workers when they leave, if those workers are replaced at all. That’s happening in the face of “more” of everything on the job, the members said: “more events,” “more students,” “more requests for library classes,” “more projects assigned” and “more students requesting services.”

The survey’s findings are important for the union in a number of ways, union officers said. They will give the union’s bargaining team vital information about priorities for higher education officers, college laboratory technicians and library faculty at ongoing contract negotiations with CUNY. PSC organizers also hope to use the workload issue and the survey data as organizing tools for the HEO and CLT chapters.

Members were quite clear that the increased workloads are having a negative impact on students because the work is spread too thin throughout a shrinking workforce. “Because of the overwhelming number of students I have to work with on a daily basis, I am not having enough time for my students’ work,” said one member.

CUT SERVICES

Another said, “Because of understaffing, we’ve had to cut student services” on campus. And another said, “More of my time is spent on basic office functions such as making appointments for students,” taking away valuable time that could be spent on face-to-face interaction with them.

And members said that workload increases were causing them more stress and anxiety. Many find it difficult to do all the work within the 35-hour-per-week contractual limit. Some reported missing meals. They worry about childcare when they have to work long hours. There is an “increased difficulty in separating work-life balance” reported one member. One reported that the workload simply left them “exhausted.”

Jeanette Batiz, the PSC chapter chair for CLTs, who serves as a senior CLT at Bronx Community College, said, “We have been understaffed and overworked for decades.”

She added, “We need salary increases and we need to hire more people at every campus.”


Published: May 19, 2024

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