Labor relation negotiations continue for CFA and CSUS

Brett Johnson

The California Faculty Association and the California State University chancellor’s office have furthered negotiations regarding their labor relations, proposing changes that could affect Sacramento State faculty and students.

Faculty and the CSU system are in the process of renewing the contract that governs the administration’s relations with its employees. There are 40 different articles in the contract that are subject to modification, from how layoffs, probation and tenure are handled by administration, to the raising and lowering of wages.

The 1978 Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act expanded collective bargaining rights to faculty members of the CSU and University of California systems. Whenever the administration wished to make changes, it would have to negotiate those changes with the faculty.

“As a standard practice, collective bargaining agreements are periodically renegotiated,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman. “Both sides introduce proposed changes, and respond to those proposals.”

The current negotiations between the CSU system and the CFA began 10 months ago. After laying out their proposals, both sides must come to a complete agreement in order to conclude negotiations.

Because a complete agreement is yet to happen, on April 21 and 22, negotiations resumed once more at CFA headquarters in Sacramento.

One of the major changes proposed by the CSU system will affect faculty who spend a portion of their time working for unions. The pay for that time, which is provided by the CSU system, is facing a proposed cut.

“The union gets $15 million from dues and agency fees, which could be used to pay for their member’s time,” Fallis said. “Any cost that the CSU system can avoid is going to be for the best given the recent budget cuts.”

Russell Kilday-Hicks, vice president for representation of the California State University Employees Union, said faculty proposals are usually very reasonable, while the CSU system’s proposals are sometimes not.

Another of the notable changes proposed in recent negotiation was an adjustment of the procedures for laying off faculty. The CFA is pushing for stronger language to dictate exactly how a layoff would occur, and an extended warning period prior to the layoff.

“It all ties back into the issue of providing a quality education,” said Kevin Wehr, president of the Sac State chapter of the CFA. “If we have a stable workforce, the students know what to expect. They won’t have to worry about who is teaching what class and when.

Part of the recent negotiation meeting was devoted to setting up more dates for contract bargaining to continue throughout the summer. Many of the meetings will be taking place at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach.

Wehr said it is impossible to tell when negotiations will be settled, given the nature of two sides with vastly different opinions in deliberation.

“Having two parties come to an agreement takes a long time,” Wehr said. “It usually ends up with something like, ‘We’ll settle on this, if you give us that.’ It’s a long and frustrating process, and it doesn’t always result in the best possible solution.”

The previous negotiations between the CSU system and the CFA took place over a long period of time, with the back and forth discussions occurring from May 15, 2007 through June 30, 2010.

Kilday-Hicks said faculty should be wary of the power the CSU system holds in the lengthy negotiations process, and should contemplate just making sacrifices in some circumstances.

“The management has the upper hand in these situations,” Kilday-Hicks said. “If they are still not agreeing with our counter proposals to their proposals, then the changes can just be imposed upon us.”

If the union or the CSU system decides the negotiations are not working out, they can bring the contract to the Public Employment Relations Board. The board evaluates the situation and can utilize a mediator to help bring the parties to an agreement.

If an agreement still is not reached, the contract is brought to a fact-finding panel, which makes a recommendation that the two sides can either accept and go forward with or choose to disagree with. Forcing changes in the contract to happen, or imposing, may occur if there is further disagreement.

“Imposing contracts comes as a last resort,” Fallis said. “There are many steps before we reach that point. We have only had to do it twice in history. Once in 1995 with the California State University Employees Union, and again in 2002 with the California Faculty Association.”