Contract talks continue
As this newspaper went to press, PSC members were engaging in actions to demand that the CUNY Board of Trustees (BoT) put forward a budget request to the state and city that calls for a fully funded contract with the PSC, including raises for all and an increase in adjunct pay to $7,000 a course. More than 170 people signed up to testify at the last BoT hearing to address the contract. More union actions are planned for December as the BoT rolls out its request. A budget request that includes full funding for a contract and additional adjunct increases, and reflects PSC needs, would be a significant step toward a good contract deal, PSC leaders said.
The union and CUNY management have engaged in several bargaining sessions in the last several months, and while the union has made presentations on its economic demands, the university has yet to make an economic offer.
Looming over the contract talks is an economic “pattern” that appears to be firmly set for public sector union bargaining with both New York City and New York State. District Council 37 (DC 37), which represents 10,000 clerical and blue-collar workers at CUNY, recently reached a yet-to-be-ratified agreement. That contract is similar to the one established by the same union for its more than 100,000 citywide workers, with 2 percent yearly raises over a little more than four years. And the United Federation of Teachers reached a deal with the city that offers yearly raises of 2, 2.5 and 3 percent, with the final 3-percent raise covering 18 months, rather than 12.
The United University Professions, the union representing SUNY faculty and staff, settled a six-year deal with the state, including 2-percent annual raises. The other major unions that bargain with the state have reached similar agreements, all with annual raises of 2 percent.
CUNY management representatives have stated across the table that CUNY’s economic offer is likely to follow the economic pattern set by other public sector union contracts, despite the PSC’s strong presentation on the need for higher increases to raise CUNY salaries to competitive levels.
“When will the trustees finally take a stand against austerity patterns and for what CUNY actually needs?” asked President Barbara Bowen. Bowen added, however, “Both state and city governments are likely to insist on an offer for the PSC that aligns with the very modest annual increases agreed to by other unions. But the PSC has a history of standing up for what our members need and making gains against the odds, as we did in the last contract with back pay.”
In this contract, the union is demanding salary increases for all, additional equity increases for the lowest-paid full-time titles, substantial noneconomic gains for all and an end to poverty pay for adjuncts.
It isn’t certain, of course, that this is what the university will put forward, and the union continues to argue that the state pattern shouldn’t be imposed on CUNY faculty and staff – those increases don’t address decades of salary erosion. The DC 37 deal and the other recently settled contracts don’t address a direly unpaid part-time workforce, whereas the PSC is in a unique position of attempting to lift CUNY adjunct wages. CUNY, unlike most state and city agencies, must also compete nationally for attracting full-time employees.
The union leadership said that the administration has acknowledged the union’s demand for $7K for adjuncts, which Bowen hailed as a “huge step forward.” The union, over the course of the last year, has presented data on the need for addressing historical salary erosion that would require wage increases beyond 2 percent each year and the need for raises beyond across-the-board increases for college laboratory technicians and lecturers.
At a recent contract bargaining session, the union presented its demands for workers in higher education officer titles. Iris DeLutro, a bargaining team member and vice president of cross campus units, told Clarion that the union pushed the need to stipulate that HEOs who self-nominate themselves for a salary differential are given the same level of consideration as HEOs who are recommended by a supervisor. DeLutro also noted that the union demands that the contract grant job protection language for HEOs after five years on the job rather than the current eight years.