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Proposed Contract: From the Perspective of Seven Graduate Assistants

Our first perspective on the proposed PSC/CUNY contract comes from a group of seven Graduate Assistants: Luke Elliott-Negri, Tahir Butt, Jeremy Sawyer, Marc Kagan, Chloe Asselin, Anh Tran, and Travis Sweatte. Full-time faculty and HEO pieces will be out in the days to come. If you want to weigh in with your own view see our Proposed Contract Discussion page for more information on that and other contract-related links.

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Last week, we received the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), our contract, from our union leadership after a long collective bargaining session between CUNY management and the PSC. If ratified, this contract will be valid until November 30, 2017. On Thursday, June 23, the Delegate Assembly of the PSC voted “yes,” 111-11, to send the contract to rank-and-file members for a vote. (The GC delegates attending the meeting split, three voting ‘for,’ the one ‘against.’) We hope that you will take the time to read the attached MOA and decide whether or not you believe we, as a union, should ratify this contract. In spite of it’s notable limitations, most PSC leaders in the GC chapter recommend ratification. To help you make the decision, we summarize the celebrations and concerns raised in the Delegate Assembly about the contract.

 

Wages

  • A pay increase of 10.41%, instead of the 6% CUNY proposed last fall, includes an immediate raise of approximately 8.9% with another 1.5% on April 20, 2017.
  • Retroactive pay will be calculated based on 1% increases in 2012 and 2013, a 2.5% increase in 2014, and 2% increases in 2015 and 2016.
  • A ratification/signing bonus of $750 for Graduate Assistants A, B, and C, and $500 for Graduate Assistants D. $1000 for full-time faculty and professionals, and adjuncts who taught at least 9/9 credit hours in 2105/16 and remain on payroll next fall. Bonuses for other adjuncts will be pro-rated based on a 12 credit hours = $500 formula.

Comment: This is a similar wage package to DC37 / CUNY and almost all of the municipal unions. This increase does not keep up with inflation. It is also 4.41% higher than the pitiful offer CUNY made before we conducted the strike authorization vote. The fact that it is applied uniformly across all titles means that it widens the pay inequity between adjuncts and full-time faculty.

 

Wage Issues for Graduate Assistants
In the past, GAs have received annual step increases in pay [link to contract] but those also receiving a stipend (typically GABs) had the stipend reduced by an amount equivalent to the pay increase. We sought language specifically prohibiting reductions of stipends due to wage increases. No such language was negotiated. When questioned at the Delegate Assembly meeting about this issue, Barbara Bowen stated that it was the leadership’s intention to prevent stipend reductions in the future.

Comment: Wage and step increases are obviously vital to most GAs and we are concerned by the lack of clear-cut language. We cannot promise certainty, but we can promise to fight any attempts on the part of the GC to recoup our contractually negotiated wage increases.  

 

Health Benefits

GAs who become adjuncts and teach 6/6 credit hours will be immediately eligible for health benefits. The previous agreement to give adjuncts teaching 6/6 for a second consecutive year health benefits is incorporated into the contract. EOC adjuncts will now be eligible for health benefits, as other adjuncts.

Comment: These are all clear-cut gains. To achieve cost-savings, there will be some changes in benefits consistent with those negotiated by the municipal unions.  

 

Multi-year Adjunct Appointments

Subject to the “fiscal and programmatic needs” of the department or college, and approval by the department’s personnel and budget committee, adjuncts who have taught at least 6 credit hours for ten consecutive semesters in the same department of the same college will be eligible for 3 year appointments guaranteeing at least 6 credit hours of work per semester. This is a pilot program that will lapse in 2020 unless CUNY agrees to extend it.

Comment: It is not clear how many adjuncts will meet all the conditions for eligibility – perhaps 15-20% from comments at the Delegate Assembly. It is not clear whether Departments will act to pre-empt eligibility, or how broadly “fiscal and programmatic needs” will apply – in other words, the extent to which CUNY will act in good faith. In short, we need to fight to make this gain a genuine gain.

 

HEO Raises

Workers in Higher Education Officer job titles who have reached top step of pay will be eligible for review for an additional $2500 salary increase. Workers at lower steps will be eligible for review to move to the next step based on excellence of work or increased duties.

Comment: This is a gain but its application is again contingent on CUNY good faith.

 

Committee on Workload Reduction for Faculty

A joint labor-management committee will consider how to reduce annual workload for full-time faculty from 24 to 21 hours and “identify resources to cover the costs.”

Comment: See above comment.

 

Other Significant Gains by the PSC

  • Librarians: Increased leave from 30 to 40 days.
  • Annual investment of $160,000 in Adjunct Professional Development fund Four day Bereavement Leave for full-timers, pro-rated for part-timers; Graduate Assistants excluded.
  • Teaching Assistants at Hunter College Campus Schools will receive a $5000 pay increase.

 

Other Significant Gains by CUNY

  • The numbers of non-tenured Distinguished Lecturers and Clinical Professors are increased from 125 to 250.
  • The numbers of Distinguished Professors are increased from 175 to 250.
  • CUNY may offer salaries to selected faculty of 180% of the contractual wage rate for each faculty title.
  • Under a pilot program (which must be renegotiated after 5 years or it will lapse), CUNY may offer up to 50 faculty a (higher) wage, exempted from any contractual restrictions.

Comment: These concessions further enshrine contingency and increase wage disparities among faculty in a similar job title, benefitting a handful of “superstars.”

 

Kicked Down the Road

  • A committee will discuss online teaching observations.
  • A committee will discuss tuition waivers for children of instructional staff.
  • A committee will discuss Business School Salaries.

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