Faculty Association reaches tentative agreement after a year past deadline

Matthew Malone

After nearly a year of negotiations and protests, the California Faculty Association and CSU system have announced a tentative contract agreement that would give raises to all CFA-represented employees, as well as targeted raises and workload reductions for some faculty.

The two groups announced the agreement on Friday Oct. 17, just shy of a year after negotiations began on the faculty union’s successor contract.

The union represents 23,000 CSU faculty members, including lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches.

The announcement closely followed marches, pickets and tabling events organized by the CFA on Oct. 7, 8 and 9 at many CSU campuses to mark the 100th day since the previous contract’s expiration in June.

A table set up by the Sacramento State CFA chapter featured letters to President Alexander Gonzalez for faculty to sign and a place to film video messages. The organizers also set up a dummy of Gonzalez. Their goal was to persuade the president to support CFA’s salary proposals.

The tentative agreement would provide a general salary increase of 1.6 percent for all union members. Additionally, temporary and tenure-track faculty whose salaries are not too close to the upper end of their salary range would receive a 3 percent raise.

The agreement also provides additional increases for many lecturers, and sets aside $2 million in an equity program, which would give raises, called equity increases, to certain tenure-track faculty. Negotiations are set to restart to determine pay levels for 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic school years.

Among its non-economic provisions, the deal sets aside money so new probationary faculty and faculty who demonstrate “exceptional levels of service to students” can temporarily reduce their workload. For probationary faculty, this would allow time for research that might help qualify them for tenure.

“We have this agreement as the foundation on which to build a bright future for our students,” CSU Chancellor Timothy White said in a CSU press release.

CFA was also optimistic in its announcement of the deal.

“After years of economic drought, our salary package not only starts us down the road to recovery but will provide much-needed raises to hardworking CSU faculty,” the CFA bargaining team wrote in its own announcement.

The bargaining team cautioned that the agreement did not solve all the problems it saw.

The equity increases are meant to address salary structures that can cause an experienced employee to make less, or little more, than a recently hired employee.

In an email, Kevin Wehr, president of CFA’s Sac State chapter, said assistant professors with four years of experience made an average of $2784 less in 2013 than newly hired assistant professors.

Mike Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs for CSU, said an employee of 20 years might encounter the same issue, which he attributed to an unpredictable CSU budget.

“So what this deal does is it tries to attempt to address some of those issues that have occurred because of the recession and because of the budget challenges we’ve faced,” Uhlenkamp said.

He said the salary provisions formed the crux of the negotiations for the past few months. CSU received a funding increase of $142 million in this year’s statewide budget, which allowed it to address employee pay.

“So it’s just a matter of slicing up that pie to see how much we can provide for compensation,” he said.

In an interview, Wehr echoed the CFA bargaining team’s optimism and reservations on the contract. He said there were good improvements in non-economic areas of the contract, such as easing faculty workload.

“And of course, the salary settlement is just for this one year and is regrettably insufficient, but it was the most that we could get,” Wehr said.

He said the chancellor had not been willing to devote enough money to the raises. Of the $142 million in new CSU funding, Chancellor White devoted $90 million to increases for faculty as well as staff.

“It is not a fully fair contract, but it is a step in the right direction,” Wehr said.