Report Breaks CSU, CFA Barriers
Fact finder's analysis Possible Framework for Contract Settlement
March 30, 2007 12:23 PM
After one of California’s largest college faculty unions upped the stakes by declaring a massive and imminent strike last week, their negotiations with the Cal State administration may have found a way back on track with a new report released Sunday.
When mediated talks between California Faculty Association and CSU negotiators broke down in December, the fact finding report became the last, legally-mandated step before the union could begin a strike.
The report is the result of about a month of research by a panel composed of one delegate each from the CFA and the CSU, and a neutral third party. That mediator was Sylvia Skratek, a former Washington state senator with a Ph.D. in labor relations and conflict resolution.
Both parties expressed willingness to use the report as a framework for settlement, but the pressure is still on: the union stands by its resolution to begin statewide rolling strikes as early as April 9 if an agreement is not reached by then, according to CFA spokesperson Alice Sunshine.
CFA President John Travis wrote a one-page endorsement of the report, praising Skratek for her acumen and insights, and complimenting CSU Vice Chancellor Jackie McClain, who represented the university administration in the fact finding panel, for her “vigor and good spirit.”
Travis’ response indicated disappointment with how the report handled conditional salary increases and maternity leave issues, but Sunshine said the union is ready to accept a settlement based on the report’s recommendations.
McClain, however, wrote a six page dissent, indicating the university would be willing to settle with the union per the report’s suggestions except for disputes with six specific articles.
The major sticking point remains salary proposals.
There are two main kinds of pay raises under discussion. General Salary Increases (or GSI) give faculty members regularly scheduled raises, and Service Salary Increases (SSI) are given at the university’s discretion based on teacher performance. Skratek’s report criticized the structure for SSIs, “revisions have taken place over the years leading to salary schedules that defy logical explanation.”
McClain fired back in her dissent, writing, “[T]he neutral’s recommendation for a salary package goes beyond the fiscal priority set by the Trustees.” She also wrote, “We have no idea whether the recommendations can be funded [in 2009-2010] within the money available in that fiscal year.”
Sunshine called the response emblematic of the CSU’s unwillingness to set faculty salary increases among their top priorities.
Noting that neither party had brought “hard budget numbers or calculations for the Panel to review,” Skratek wrote that the university had confirmed to her that it was not pleading an inability to pay, observing that the dispute is at this point “philosophical in nature.”
SSI pay raises are a “no cost” budget item for the administration, argued George Diehr, chairman of the union’s bargaining committee, because the funding for those increases comes from money saved when professors retire.
The administration, the report describes, argued those cost savings don’t necessarily go straight back into the salary budget.
All three parties agreed that more funding should come from the state legislature, especially for hiring more permanent, or tenure-track, faculty. The CSU and CFA agreed on that in 2003, and sent a joint letter to Virginia Strom-Martin at the state assembly, but Skratek’s report indicates, “As of today, no funding has been appropriated by the state for the implementation of [that] resolution.”
With just days to go before the looming strikes might begin, Diehr expressed cautious optimism towards a possible resolution.
“They have agreed to structure the contract after [the fact finder’s proposal],” he said of CSU administrators, “and if we can believe them, then yes, it’s less likely that there’ll be a strike. They have made a last, best and final offer, and it’s closer to being acceptable.”
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