Update on delayed 2 percent raise

Updated: January 6, 2021
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Dear PSC Members:

I hope this finds you and your loved ones in good health at this difficult time.

I’m writing to update you on the union’s fight for our contractual salary increase and to share information about the delay. CUNY management’s unilateral decision to break our contract cannot go uncontested, even at a time of economic crisis. The decision to delay our raise was not inevitable; it represents a choice by the CUNY chancellor to impose hardship on the faculty, staff and students rather than oppose the State’s austerity funding.

For many members living on tight budgets or counting on the extra income to help others during the pandemic, the loss of the expected increase has created real financial strain. For other members, the failure to pay our raise on time may feel more like a slap in the face, a further sign of disrespect, after months of crushing increases in workload. Regardless of our circumstances, we all have a stake in defending our contract. PSC members are not a piggy bank for CUNY or the State; we should not be compelled to make an involuntary loan. The union is fighting back through a class-action grievance and is prepared to take further action, including exploring all available legal remedies. If you haven’t sent your letter of protest to the chancellor yet, please send it today.

CUNY management has failed to provide any information to employees about the raise-delay, but PSC leaders have sought answers to your questions in a series of meetings with the CUNY chancellor and other managers. The most important information we have received is that the raise is being delayed, not eliminated, and that PSC-represented employees can expect to receive the retroactive value of the increase. Read on for more on this question and others.

  • Does CUNY management plan to pay us eventually the full value of our raise, including retroactive pay? Yes. According to Chancellor Matos Rodríguez, the raise is being delayed, not eliminated. CUNY management “intends to make employees whole”; that is, pay each employee retroactively the full value of the raise, dating back to the contractual effective date of November 15.
  • When will the 2-percent raise be implemented? CUNY management representatives had no answer. They attributed CUNY’s budget crisis and decision to delay the raise largely to New York State government’s decision to withhold 20 percent of CUNY funding every month since June; they do not know how long the withholding will continue. But PSC members should know that there were other choices about how to respond to the State’s withholding of money. The CUNY trustees could have publicly opposed the further degradation of the University’s budget; they could have demanded that the governor restore higher tax rates on the rich before cutting CUNY; they could have sent the message that CUNY cannot simply absorb continual loss of funds without sabotaging our students’ education.
  • Will we get interest on the retroactive raise? CUNY management’s answer was no. New York City and State governments have a long-standing and indefensible practice of refusing to pay interest on retroactive salary. The union leadership will continue to challenge this practice, but the involuntary loan we are making to the CUNY Board of Trustees is not expected to be interest-bearing.
  • Are our salary step increases intact? Yes. Step increases will be applied as usual for those eligible under the contract. See Article 24 of the contract for specifics on who is eligible for step increases and when they are applied. Depending on your title and date of hire, the steps are applied on January 1 or July 1. Until the 2-percent raise due this November is implemented, the salaries at each step for almost all titles (except those described below) will be at their href="https://psc-cuny.org/salary-schedules" target="_blank">October 31, 2019 rates; that is, at their rate as of the last across-the-board salary increase.
  • What about the special increases to salary steps for aHEOs, Lecturers and others due in 2021? As part of the last contract, the PSC negotiated additional increases on each step of certain salary schedules for full-time employees in positions with lower pay. These “equity” increases have already been applied to College Laboratory Technician salary steps (in January 2020) and are scheduled to be applied to Assistant to HEO salary steps on February 1, 2021 and to the salary steps for the titles of Lecturer, Lecturer Doctoral Schedule, Visiting Lecturer, CLIP Instructor and CUNY Start Instructor on April 1, 2021. CUNY management confirmed that these increases remain on schedule.
  • How was the 2-percent increase handled for adjunct faculty? Because of the complexity of applying a wage increase of 2 percent in the middle of a semester when adjuncts teach only on certain days per week, CUNY management decided last spring to “smooth out” the increase for adjunct faculty over the entire fall semester. Instead of receiving a 2-percent increase effective November 15, these adjuncts received a smaller increase from the first day of the semester. Their total earnings for the semester, factoring in the 2-percent increase as of November 15, were divided evenly among their fall semester paychecks.
  • What will happen with adjunct faculty pay next semester? Instead of leaving the higher rate in place for adjunct faculty and allowing them to continue being paid at this level, CUNY management decided to reduce adjunct faculty rates of pay to their level before the “smoothed out” 2020 raise was implemented. As a result, the hourly rate for adjunct faculty will be lower in spring 2021 than in fall 2020. The smoothed-out rate for adjunct faculty will also be used for the winter intersession at most colleges, except at LaGuardia, Kingsborough and Guttman. For the spring semester at all colleges, adjunct faculty will be paid at the October 31, 2019 rates, just as all full-time employees will.
  • Do the paid office hours for adjuncts remain in place? Yes. Because the union pushed to finish the last round of negotiations and lock in the paid office hours for adjunct faculty, the paid office hours were implemented last spring, and they remain in effect.
  • Is pay for graduate assistants, adjunct CLTs or non-teaching adjuncts being handled in the same way as pay for adjunct faculty? No. Rates of pay for graduate assistants, who are on annual salaries, and for non-teaching adjuncts and adjunct CLTs are being handled in the same way as salaries for full-time faculty and professional staff.
  • What if I received an appointment letter with the pre-November-15 rate of pay? If the appointment letter is otherwise correct, you should sign it. You do not waive any of your contractual rights to the negotiated salary increase or retroactive pay by signing the letter at an incorrect, pre-November-15, rate of pay. Nevertheless, the union leadership has protested CUNY’s poor management in sending out such letters without any indication of why the rate of pay is lower than contractually provided.
  • Have raises been delayed for other unions at CUNY? Sadly, yes. The other unions at CUNY that had raises due in November have also had their raises delayed; these are the nurses’ union (NYSNA) and the stage-hands union (IATSE). These two unions, however, have very few members at CUNY. Colleagues in AFSCME District Council 37 at CUNY have not been affected by the delay because the last increase in their contract was on February 1, 2020.
  • What about other unions in New York State? Governor Cuomo started delaying raises for state employees represented by unions in April, soon after the pandemic hit. The PSC publicly protested the first of these delays, in solidarity with the other unions. Since then, raises for all statewide public-employee unions that were due after April, including for our counterpart union at SUNY, United University Professions, have been delayed. Some have been delayed multiple times.
  • What is the next step in the union’s fight, and how can I join? The immediate next action is a Step 2 hearing on the class-action grievance the union filed. PSC leaders are pressing for that hearing to be held before the end of December. We will notify members of the date and keep you informed about the progress of the grievance. But you can take action right now; send your letter of protest to the chancellor today. The decision to withhold nearly $4 million a month from the faculty and staff was his decision, pursued instead of refusing to accept further austerity for CUNY. Finally, you can join the union’s campaign to build the power we need on our campuses to take mass action against budget cuts and contract violations. And be part of addressing the root of the problem in Albany and City Hall: protection of the rich by taxing them at a lower effective rate than most working people. Join the PSC’s campaign for a New Deal for CUNY and for fair taxation.

I want to thank the 800 PSC members and supporters who participated in the New Deal for CUNY town hall earlier this month, the hundreds who joined in the anti-racist forum on December 4, and the thousands of members across the University who are working together to build the power the union needs to contest the raise-delay and be in a position to take disruptive action. These are hard times, but it’s good to be part of a fighting union.

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY