Dear PSC Members,
I hope this message finds you in good health. Remember, the union is here for you if you need assistance. And if have questions about health benefits at this critical time, know that the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund stands ready to help.
I want to update you on contractual issues during the current emergency. First, my thanks to every member who supported the union’s contract campaign last year and helped to achieve the hard-fought victories in our 2017-2023 contract. Many members have observed how important it is that we have a contract in place as we face a health crisis that has also become a staggering economic crisis. The PSC will continue to fight for the needs of every one of our members and of working people as a whole.
Contract Provisions for the COVID Emergency
There is almost no aspect of our jobs at CUNY that has not been affected by the switch to distance learning and working remotely. Several weeks ago, the PSC leadership demanded bargaining with CUNY management on the contractual impact of these changes, and we have now reached what we expect to be the first of several supplemental agreements on short-term modifications of the contract for the current conditions. Colleges have received guidance from the chancellor’s office on several of the changes already, but we now have a negotiated agreement.
The agreement, linked here and copied below, covers classroom teaching observations; annual evaluations for both staff and faculty; office hours conducted through distance technology; decisions on tenure, reclassification and salary differentials that were already in process as of March 12; and an important option for untenured professorial faculty whose tenure decision is approaching. The agreement also permits faculty and staff to retrieve belongings from campus buildings, to the extent allowed by college guidelines.
Please read the agreement carefully, especially if any of its provisions apply to you. The option for faculty whose tenure decision will be made this fall must be exercised by May 15, so time is short. PSC staff will be in touch with every faculty member in this position, and union officers will provide information to department chairs. In the meantime, if you are an untenured faculty member coming up for tenure and have questions, please contact the PSC’s director of contract administration, Renee Lasher.
Adjunct Appointments, Telecommuting and Other Issues
There are other time-sensitive issues, however, on which the PSC and management have not yet reached agreement. Adjunct faculty reappointments are also due on May 15, and the PSC leadership has held several discussions with the chancellor’s office about these appointments in the past few weeks. We are aware of the urgency and of what’s at stake in members’ lives. The PSC is also pushing hard to enable doctoral students who are not currently eligible for health insurance through CUNY to receive coverage. I will update you as soon as we can.
Earlier this month, the union raised serious objections to the telecommuting plans at several campuses, and we continue to monitor those plans. The PSC has called for bargaining on these plans and on a range of other issues, including adjustments in contractual provisions for job security, health and safety, access to paid sick days, and additional compensation for additional work. The PSC bargaining team and elected leadership is developing a detailed list of proposals, and the proposals may evolve as the crisis evolves. We expect the next round of talks this week.
Several members contacted the PSC after reading that New York State had issued an order to delay payment of raises scheduled for April for workers in two statewide unions. The next raise for employees represented by the PSC is November 15, 2020, and there has been no order concerning a delay in our raises. See the PSC’s statement about delayed raises.
Fall Semester and Summer Work
I know that the issue that is uppermost for many of you is whether distance learning will continue in the fall semester and whether professional staff and non-classroom faculty will return to on-campus work at any point during the summer. No decision has been made yet. The deciding factor may well be a government directive, but the PSC has demanded that management negotiate with the union about when on-site work and face-to-face teaching will resume.
The union’s position is that public health and the health of our members, CUNY students and our fellow workers on CUNY campuses must come first. There should be no question about that. The union leadership also wants to learn what you are thinking about the issue, and we will contact department chairs and campus union leaders about your views on the summer and fall.
Finally, on a heartbreaking subject: we have lost PSC members to this awful disease. The union officers and staff offer our profound sympathy to the families, loved ones and colleagues of members who have died in this crisis. The PSC would like to commemorate members who have lost their lives to COVID-19 on a memorial page on our website, especially because we cannot gather physically to console and support each other. Out of respect for families’ privacy, we will publish the names of deceased members only if the news of their death has already been made public or if their survivors give us permission to name them. Information on how to contact us about the memorial page can be found here.
Take care of yourselves, PSC members—you are doing beautiful work in this terrible time.
Supplemental Agreement for the COVID-19 Virus State of Emergency
The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York enter into the following Supplemental Agreement for the COVID-19 Virus State of Emergency (“Emergency Agreement”):
The Emergency Agreement shall take effect on March 12, 2020, and continue until the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, unless an extension is agreed to by the parties. Additional provisions may be added by agreement of the parties.
The provisions of the Emergency Agreement shall supersede any other agreement concerning the subject matter herein made by the parties prior to March 12, 2020.
1) Both full-time faculty and adjuncts who are responsible for holding office hours will hold office hours through distance technology and will notify their students and their department chair regarding how they plan to hold the hours.
2) Classroom teaching observations that had not been conducted prior to March 20, 2020, for the spring 2020 semester will be conducted only if requested by the employee to be observed. If a teaching observation is requested, the department will use the new contractual provision for classroom teaching observations of online classes set forth in Article 18.2(b)3, recognizing that courses being taught through distance technology are not necessarily online courses and acknowledging in the observation report that the course was not a distance-learning course from the start of the semester. The individual to be observed must be made aware of the procedure to be used and have the option not to proceed with the observation. Teaching observations for faculty teaching courses online since the start of the semester and who are due to be observed during this semester shall be observed pursuant to Article 18.2(b)3.
3) The annual evaluation conference required by Article 18.3 will be conducted through distance technology, which may include telephone and/or videoconferencing. The written record of the discussion, as required under Article 18.3, may be delivered to the employee by electronic means. In satisfaction of the requirements of Article 19, the electronic communication of the record of the discussion may be placed in the employee’s personnel file after the employee has been given the opportunity to read the contents and attach any comments. The employee will acknowledge by email receipt of the written record of the discussion; if the employee fails to send such acknowledgment, a statement to that effect will be included in the employee’s file along with a copy of the record of the discussion. If the overall evaluation is unsatisfactory, the record of the discussion shall so state, and the employee may electronically make a request to appear before the department P&B pursuant to Article 18.3(a). Such appearance may be held through distance technology.
4) Decisions on tenure effective September 1, 2020, on promotion, on reclassification and on discretionary assignment salary differentials that were in process as of March 12, 2020 shall be completed.
5) Faculty and staff shall be permitted to retrieve personal belongings and materials needed to work remotely. In conformance to the New York State on Pause Executive Order, access to campuses will be limited except by appointment. Faculty and staff will contact their local campus for specific information.
6) Faculty who are candidates for tenure effective September 1, 2021, may receive a one-year extension in their tenure review, if they so desire. It is understood that if such a faculty member is reappointed for the 2021-2022 academic year, the reappointment will be without tenure and will be deemed the 6th reappointment (i.e. seventh consecutive year of service) toward tenure. Such a faculty member must request a tenure clock extension by emailing their college provost by May 15, 2020. The written record of the request shall be placed in the employee’s personnel file. By June 1, 2020, each college provost shall send the CUNY Office of Labor Relations a list of all faculty who elected the one-year extension. CUNY OLR shall forward that list to PSC by June 15, 2020.
Faculty on the tenure track for consideration in later years who wish to seek a one-year extension based on the circumstances of the spring 2020 semester must apply to their college provost by February 1 of the spring semester preceding their fall tenure review. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with past college and university practices.
/s B. Bowen/ 4/17/20
Professional Staff Congress/CUNY Date
/s P. Silverblatt/ 4/18/20
The City University of New York Date