CSU announces salary hike plan to squeeze imbalances

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The California State University Board of Trustees recently announced a five-year plan to raise the salaries of its 43,000 employees, including a 13.7 percent raise for CSU executives and presidents, while at the same time raising undergraduate student fees by 8 percent.

The CSU said the effort was meant to “close the overwhelming pay disparities between CSU employees and those at comparable U.S. universities,” according to a CSU statement.

While the plan reflects a priority on closing salary gaps in incremental steps over the next five years, salaries of union employees will be subject to collective bargaining.

The California Faculty Association made an agreement through bargaining with the CSU this fall on a 3.5 percent increase in wages, retroactive to July 1, according to James David Ballard, president of the CSUN chapter of the CFA and sociology professor.

“No, I’m not happy with it,” said Ballard about the wage increase for his union after three years of unraised pay. “(The pay for) faculty is going backwards. Faculty need pay increases.”

Ballard said the CFA bargaining team would not stop negotiating at 3.5 percent.

“The 3.5 percent is a temporary agreement. Faculty agreed to take that, but we are bargaining for additional compensation,” he said.

Todd Wolfe, chief steward of the Northridge chapter of the Academic Professionals of California and adviser in the College of Education, said his union has been in negotiations with the CSU for a long time.

“The (general salary increase) is three percent retroactive to July 1, 2005,” he said. “We should see that increase in our next paycheck in December.”

Wolfe said negotiations for the APC began almost two years ago, and employees got their last raise in 2003. APC was one of the last unions to receive a raise this year, he said.

“The (recent) agreement is to give employees a small raise, otherwise they (the CSUs) are going to lose them,” he said, a concern echoed by the CSU.

“The CSU is having a difficult time recruiting and retaining CSU faculty and executives because of the salary differences,” according to a CSU statement.

Ballard said salary increases definitely affect funding for the university.

“Anytime you take money from the pool, it affects that pool,” Ballard said.

The compensation funding provided the CFA with a 3.5 percent increase. That money is not tied to student fees, but they went up anyway, Ballard said, adding that the CFA objects to raising student fees, like what happened at the October trustees meeting.

“I would question the role of the Chancellor’s Office and trustees to give increases to presidents while raising student fees,” Ballard said. “It seems irresponsible.”

As part of an approved 2006-07 CSU budget, undergraduate student fees were raised 8 percent and graduate student fees raised 10 percent at the October Board of Trustees meeting. The five-year plan proposes to increase student fees 10 percent a year for the next four years as salaries are balanced between the CSU and other schools.

Kevin Glasson, vice president and steward of the CSUN chapter of the California State University Employees Union, also believes the pay increases to presidents and executives was an irresponsible move on behalf of the CSU.

“It seems unfair to me to give yourself a big raise on the backs of students,” Glasson said. “It should be all about access to students, not awarding the already well-off presidents.”

“It’s hard to believe she’s getting underpaid,” Glasson said in regards to a 22 percent raise CSUN President Jolene Koester received. “Not to belittle her job skills – good for her. But I would certainly like to see that kind of effort put into the rest of the staff.”

Other union leaders on campus shared similar concerns.

“It seems inappropriate,” Ballard said. “That’s not the president’s fault. That’s the Chancellor’s Office and trustees’ fault.”

Wolfe said he was a little envious of Koester’s raise.

“I don’t have an opinion about whether it’s deserved or not,” he said. “It’s part of the plan to increase raises by the Board of Trustees. That’s their plan.”

Ballard said there are other ways to obtain funding to accommodate raises.

“Look at the alternative revenue sources on campus,” he said. “Where are moving rental fees going? Parking fees? All those fees are being used in the best way possible to not raise student fees, but they are up.”

Wolfe said the CSU is dependent on state dollars and it is impossible to give wage increases without raising revenue.

Glasson said that not only are CSUs raising student fees while giving presidents and executives pay increases, but the UCs are in the same situation.

Glasson said he would have wanted his union’s pay hike to be a lot more.

“Our members certainly deserve more, but I am happy with it,” he said. “I am aware that there is not a lot of money to bargain over.”

The CSU Employees Union has not had a raise in several years, Glasson said.

“We represent a majority of workers on campus,” he said.

Glasson explains that the general salary increase of his union was 2 percent, which all union members receive. Another 2 percent goes to those employees that have had a recent satisfactory employee performance evaluation, according to Glasson.

Glasson said a new phase of bargaining is about to begin between his union and the CSU for the 2006 fiscal year.

Calls made to CSU Chancellor Reed were not returned.

Cynthia Ramos can be reached at cynthia.ramos.838@csun.edu.