PSC-CUNY Contract Update & Other News

CONTRACT UPDATE

August 11, 2014 

Momentum is growing in negotiations for a new contract, with two formal bargaining sessions and several subcommittee meetings held during the last month.  Both PSC and CUNY management representatives have expressed a commitment to reaching a settlement as expeditiously as possible, given that several other public-employee unions in the city have already completed bargaining.

Adjunct Health Agreement a Victory for All
A major advance occurred last week, when the union won our 14-year campaign to transfer responsibility for adjunct health insurance from the Welfare Fund to the University. The adjunct agreement means that one of the union’s major goals for this round of bargaining—equity in health benefits for adjuncts—has already been largely achieved.  It also means that in these contract negotiations, unlike many in the past, we do not start with a crisis in the Welfare Fund to resolve.  The agreement helps to stabilize the finances of the Welfare Fund, which provides supplemental health benefits to faculty and professional staff.  It is a material as well as a moral victory for all of us.

Productive Discussions, But No Economic Offer Yet
Discussions at the bargaining table have been productive, as have the discussions in smaller subcommittee meetings on specific contract issues.  In this round of bargaining, the labor and management negotiating teams have agreed to do some preliminary work in subcommittees in order to make progress quickly.  The two formal sessions in July focused on management’s preliminary response to our demands, the union’s response to theirs, and the PSC’s detailed presentation of certain demands.

CUNY management representatives acknowledged the importance of raising salaries, especially after the long wait for this contract.  On the other hand, they stressed that they will have to work within an economic package approved by both the City and the State.  CUNY contracts typically take longer to resolve than those of many other public-sector unions.

The union bargaining team understands that dynamic, but we also know that PSC members cannot wait much longer for a raise.  We have pressed CUNY management to make an economic offer—one that will lift salaries and provide financial relief to our members.  Management has not put an offer on the table, but we have had promising discussions of economic needs.

Bargaining Sessions
The PSC presentations at the bargaining table have focused on the urgent need for salary increases, and at the same time the importance of addressing other longstanding needs. The union continues to raise four overarching priorities: the need for more competitive salaries, especially given that CUNY recruits nationally; the need for a more reasonable teaching load for full-time faculty; the need for HEOs to be able to advance in their careers; and the need for progress toward equity and fairness for adjuncts.  We recognize that these will be difficult to achieve at a time of continued austerity politics and limited collective bargaining settlements, but the quality of education at CUNY depends on the quality of our working conditions. CUNY will not be competitive nationally—or reach its full potential for the people of New York—if it does not invest in its entire faculty and staff.

The union has also begun detailed presentation of specific demands.  At the July 30 session, library faculty representatives made a compelling presentation on the need for equity with other faculty in annual leave and research time. The PSC bargaining team is working with other groups to prepare presentations of specific demands.  Meanwhile, we have indicated to CUNY management that we are willing to work with certain proposals they have made, but that we will not compromise on fundamental issues, such as the preservation of salary steps—rather than management’s proposal of discretionary increases under the control of college presidents.

 (If you would like to attend a negotiating session, tell us by sending a message here. The PSC bargaining team will do our best to accommodate you.  With some preliminary negotiations occurring in subcommittee meetings, however, there may be fewer formal bargaining sessions than in the past.)

Next Steps
Contracts are won by the power of the union members, not by the bargaining team.  The PSC bargaining team will need your help as negotiations intensify or if we need to call for movement on economics.  Please be ready to join in speaking up for our needs and fighting for a contract worthy of the work we do.  The PSC has seen before, and we will see again, that our collective pressure on management works.

Barbara Bowen
President, PSC/CUNY

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CUNY will receive extra NYS funding to provide health insurance for adjuncts

The Professional Staff Congress and The City University of New York have reached a landmark agreement with the City of New York on inclusion of eligible CUNY adjuncts in the New York City Health Benefits Program. The agreement provides regularized health insurance for an important part of the CUNY teaching workforce and contributes to stabilizing the finances of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund.

Extending health insurance to this significant group of part-time employees at CUNY has required the vision and persistence of many partners, said CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken and PSC/CUNY President Barbara Bowen. “We thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, legislative leaders, budget and labor relations offices and the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund for their critical roles in making this agreement possible,” they said.

Adjunct health insurance has been provided by the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund for several decades, through funds negotiated in collective bargaining. As the number of adjuncts grew and the costs of health care skyrocketed, however, the burden on the Welfare Fund escalated to an untenable level, necessitating stop-gap measures to maintain the Fund’s solvency.

The PSC, including the affected adjuncts, vigorously advocated for equitable adjunct health insurance. The University responded, and successfully sought and obtained additional funding from New York State to provide support for adjunct health insurance. Shortly thereafter, the University and the PSC entered into negotiations regarding the benefit and began working with the City of New York to allow coverage for eligible adjuncts to be transferred from the Welfare Fund to the City Health Benefits Program. During the negotiations, the Welfare Fund Trustees voted to extend the adjunct health insurance coverage through September 30, 2014.

“This accomplishment assures equitable access to health insurance, which will profoundly affect the lives of dedicated adjuncts, many of whom have been teaching core courses for decades. Qualified CUNY adjuncts will now be able to receive their basic health insurance through the City Health Benefits Program, on an equitable basis with full-time CUNY employees,” Bowen and Milliken said.

Qualified adjuncts may enroll in the City Health Benefits Program effective October 1, 2014; the University has established a deadline of September 19 for enrollment through college human resources offices. The University will provide additional funding to the Welfare Fund to enable it to continue to provide coverage until October 1.

AFSCME DISTRICT COUNCIL 37 MEMBERS OVERWHELMINGLY RATIFY CONTRACT

By an overwhelming 96 percent, members of District Council 37 ratified a new economic agreement, Executive Director Lillian Roberts announced today. It gives employees 10.41 percent in compounded wage hikes and maintains basic health and welfare benefits with no additional out-of-pocket costs. The pact covers the period from March 3, 2010 to July 2, 2017.

 

The seven-year, four-month agreement passed with over 96 percent voting yes, according to tallies by the American Arbitration Association. Of the approximate 88,000 eligible members, 45,561 voted yes and only 1,673 voted no.

 

“I want to thank all the members for their overwhelming support for this contract,” said Ms. Roberts. “This just shows what is possible, even in a difficult economic climate, when you have a union that does its research and finds real savings for the city and an administration willing to listen and treat employees with respect. In addition, this contract contains a ground-breaking Joint Recruitment and Promotion Committee, which addresses inequities and increases promotional opportunities for public employees, the majority of whom are women and people of color.” Additionally, it includes a gain-sharing proposal which lets workers benefit from mutually agreed upon cost-saving strategies.

 

The tentative agreement was reached on July 2. The ratification vote was conducted in accordance with the DC 37 Constitution, which mandates that all union-wide contract votes be conducted by an independent third party.

 

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District Council 37 is New York City’s largest public employee union, with 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees.