CSU faculty contract negotiations at standstill after 100 days

California faculty members approach their 100th day without a new labor contract after months of salary and workload disputes with the California State University (CSU) system.

The California Faculty Association (CFA) plans to take action at all 23 of the CSU campuses throughout the week of Oct. 8, including an informational picket line at SF State, unless the groups reach a settlement, according to a CFA official.

“We need to start addressing some of the inequities within the salary structure because it is extremely demoralizing for faculty,” said Sheila Tully, SF State CFA chapter president. “If you don’t have the (salary step increases) you’re stuck.”

The absence of salary step increases in the offer from the CSU causes inversion, which means some faculty members who have been working for years earn significantly less than new hires, according to Tully.

Other structural issues include compression, when similar salaries are given to faculty with different experience levels, and misclassification, which is when faculty members are paid less than their qualifications warrant.

History professor Eva Sheppard Wolf began working at SF State in 2002 and at one point was paid less than new hires.

“The message I felt I was getting was that what we faculty do wasn’t important and that we can easily be replaced,” Wolf said. “That’s the sort of unspoken message that one feels when there are no raises for a long time.”

The CSU presented a three-year general salary arrangement with a 1.81 percent increase the first year, a 1.70 percent increase the second year and 1.78 increase in the third year, according to the August CSU Bargain Update.

“We are trying to deal with a lot of the compensation issues we’ve faced dating back to the recession,” CSU Director of Public Affairs Michael Uhlenkamp said. “Faculty members are obviously extremely valuable on the campuses.”

The university system proposed to appropriate 64.4 percent, or $91.6 million, of state funds to employee payment, according to the Bargain Update. A proposed $46 million would be allocated for faculty alone.

The CFA wants to see the money distributed differently to remedy the inequity caused by the salary structure, according to Tully. The workload issue remains on the table as well.

“We can’t provide high quality education and meet the needs of our students in huge classes or huge online classes,” said Tully. “Our working conditions are your learning conditions.”

In the face of growing class sizes, the matter of faculty workload has not been raised in contract bargains for the last 20 years, according to the CFA Response to the CSU Bargaining Update, Aug. 27.

“If I teach 25 students, I’m paid exactly the same amount as when I teach 125 students.” Tully said.

Negotiations are scheduled to continue this month. The former contract remains in place until Sept. 30 at which point either the new contract can be installed, the last contract can be extended again or faculty can temporarily go without.

“It is possible they could work without a contract, which was the case last time,” Uhlenkamp said. “The previous contract had expired and it was two years before we came to an agreement.”

Unresolved contract negotiations between the groups almost caused a statewide faculty strike in 2012, but both parties seem confident it will not escalate further.

“We are very optimistic that both sides will be able to come to an agreement that works for both parties,” Uhlenkamp said.

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