Members of United University Professions (UUP), the union representing 35,000 faculty and staff at SUNY, have ratified a new five-year contract that runs until July 2016, with 77% voting to approve the deal.
The agreement provides for no percentage pay increases in the first three years, followed by a 2% raise in 2014-15 and another 2% hike in 2015-16. In addition, a “Deficit Reduction Plan” will reduce SUNY faculty and staff paychecks during the next two years. Employees will have their salary reduced by the value of a total of nine days in that period, with seven days’ pay returned, without interest, during fiscal year 2017.
Cash amounts of $500 will be added to all members’ base salaries in 2013, followed by $250 in 2014 and $500 in 2015 – paid for with funds that are normally given “in the discretion of the chancellor.” One-time $500 awards will also be added to salary for bargaining unit members at certain career milestones. (The UUP contract does not provide salary steps: titles instead have salary ranges with minimums and maximums.)
UUP was the last major state worker union to arrive at a settlement, and terms of the deal are broadly similar to the contracts between the state and its two largest unions, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the Public Employees Federation (PEF), in 2011. Governor Andrew Cuomo had threatened to lay off 10,000 state workers if those concessionary contracts were not approved, and members of both unions were bitter about negotiating “with a gun to our heads.”
The UUP settlement was first announced on February 19, by then-President Phillip Smith, who called it “the best deal possible” in a difficult situation. Smith retired this year and was succeeded by Frederick Kowal, professor of political science at SUNY-Cobbleskill, who was elected by UUP delegates in May. Kowal said the ratification vote “affirms that our members understand the challenging times in which the negotiations took place.”
“We knew when we started our negotiations this was going to be a difficult contract because of the state’s demands for givebacks,” said Jamie Dangler, head of the UUP’s bargaining team. UUP leaders said they gained improved procedures for evaluations, promotions and grievances.
The contract ratification comes at a time when UUP is seeking to prevent the downsizing or privatization of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. To date, 400 UUP members at Downstate have received termination notices; the future of 3,100 other UUP members, and of a key health care institution in underserved central Brooklyn, remain uncertain. (You can support union members at SUNY Downstate by sending a message to Albany at tinyurl.com/SaveDownstate.)