CSU EU negotiations stall over allocation of .25 percent

Danielle Directo

Salary contract negotiations between California State University and the CSU Employees Union have reached a standstill after both parties were unable to reach an agreement on how to allocate an additional pay raise of a quarter of a percent for CSU service employees.

After a Nov. 1 meeting that was mediated by an independent third party, California Public Employment Relations Board, failed to reach a conclusion, the CSUEU held a rally at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach to support their positions and persuade the Board in accepting their terms for the negotiations.

So far, both parties have reached a tentative agreement on several issues, but they still disagree about whether the quarter of a percent pay raise should be allocated toward a general salary increase (GSI) or a market rate increase that would make CSU service employees’ salaries comparable to jobs outside of the CSU system.

“Basically, we’ve hit a philosophical difference,” said Dennis Dillon, vice president of representation for the CSUEU. Of approximately 16,000 employees in the union, which doesn’t include professors, only about 68 are paid at the top of their salary range, Dillon said. The raise will apply to all employees regardless of the classification of their job if the quarter of a percent is applied to the GSI, Dillon said. If it’s applied toward the market rate, not all employees may benefit from the raise, Dillon said.

The CSU and CSUEU have already agreed to a 3.457 percent GSI increase and a one percent service salary increase retroactive to July 1. They’ve also agreed to increase the Rural Health Care Subsidy to $250 for employees who live in zip codes not covered with medical insurance according to the California Public Employee Retirement System, which provides health and retirement health benefits for about 2,500 companies and 1.5 million people, their Web site shows.

The CSUEU represents employees working in positions such as information technology, academic instructional support, food services and custodial, among others.

Paul Browning, CSU spokesperson, said both parties have made progress since their initial contract bargaining negotiations. Another meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28 so an agreement can be met, Browning said.

“Custodial employees are at the market rate,” Browning said, but all other service occupations are not.

Though there are some employees that are being paid at their salary range maximum, in general, CSU employees’ incomes haven’t been able to keep up with inflation, Dillon said.

“Everybody’s boat is in low water and we want more water to raise everyone’s boats higher off the ground,” Dillon said. By allotting the additional .25 percent raise towards the GSI, salaries can compete with inflation, Dillon said.

Gilmar Rodriguez, a landscaping groundsworker at CSUN, said many other employees travel from as far as Palmdale, Lancaster and Long Beach to come to work. With the rising costs of gas, food and other living expenses, a better raise will allow workers to afford the effects of inflation, Rodriguez said.

“They know we have families,” Rodriguez said.

David Veitch, a facility services groundsworker, said, “If you do well at your job, you should get a raise.”

“It should be five percent with the cost of living going up” Veitch said.

The CSU faced criticism in September, most notably from Lt. Governor and ex-officio trustee John Garamendi, when the Board of Trustees approved about 12 percent salary increases for executives and campus presidents. The new executive compensation plan indicates CSUN president Jolene Koester’s salary was raised to $295,000 after a $29,775 pay increase. CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed received a $44,500 increase, bringing his salary to $421,500.

The CSU Salary Schedule for 2007-08 indicates the average yearly income for groundsworkers being paid at the maximum of their salary range is $43,068. Custodians earn $36,500 a year at the maximum, and food service workers earn a salary between $34,089 and $49,368 depending on their rank.