CFA-CSU salary negotiations stall

DANIEL ANTOLIN

On one side of the table sat the California State University assistant vice chancellor and half a dozen other officials, with the CSUN president looking on behind them.

On the other side sat senior and junior faculty members and librarians. After three days of negotiations, they all left the room, unable to reach a compromise.

This is what resulted from the latest rounds of contract negotiations in Long Beach between the CSU and the California Faculty Association bargaining teams.

Now only mediators may be able to uncheck this stalemate.

One side sees it as a progressive step forward.

“I think we both recognize that it’s wise to get the state involved and move things forward,” said CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor Sam Strafaci.

But the other side sees it as an admission that the CSU is unwilling to budge.

James Ballard, president of the CSUN chapter of the CFA, said, “they made an offer and said that’s it, to either take it or leave it.”

These meetings have been “orderly, but informal,” Strafaci said. Both sides discuss the issues and make proposals. Chief negotiators and their teams weigh in on issues and have left a bit early, Ballard said. But no one literally walks out.

Where the two leaders of these bargaining teams said they find a common ground is at CSUN with its thousands of students whose academic needs must be placed first.

“I believe faculty when they say how dedicated they are and how they want to continue on for the students,” Strafaci said.

The CSU also looks out for the students’ education, proposing to buy out student fee hike expectations, he said.

For faculty members, personal investment in the university stems from having settled into the local community, Ballard said.

But a faculty member strike is an option that is always on the table, he said.

Today, CFA President John Travis will discuss the progress of the negotiations in a speech to the campus community. He will also answer questions from faculty members and students in attendance about the issues still on the table.

At the forefront of these issues is a 15 percent salary increase, which would be implemented in growing increments over the next four years.

This was the latest offer made by the CSU, but the number may not take into account the four years faculty went without salary increases and the rise in the cost of living.

They received a 3.5 percent increase in 2005, however, that was meant to curb these costs.

“After four years of no raises and factoring in inflation, we couldn’t accept the offer, which is not even guaranteed,” Ballard said, as the offer is dependent on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger providing the CSU with more funds. “That doesn’t usually happen.”

While the money offered is more than what is possible under the current state budget, the CSU is “very optimistic” that they will receive the necessary additional funding, Strafaci said.

“We’re willing to go and ask for more money. We don’t live in an era with unlimited resources and they’re not being realistic,” he said.

This is also dependent on the results of the November gubernatorial election, as Phil Angelides has pledged to support the CFA should he be elected, Ballard said.

Also at issue are faculty parking fees.

The CSU wants “equity,” for professors to pay the same fees that administrators and students pay, Strafaci said.

The CFA sees this as a benefit, however, and raising these fees would not make matters equal.

In terms of parking fees, administrators may pay the same amount that students do, but they receive a $1,000 car allowance each month, Ballard said.

They also receive additional bonuses each year while faculty are fighting for salary increases that are fair and in appreciation of their years of instruction, he said.

Faculty takes issue with junior faculty being offered higher salaries for this reason.

“They will eventually see our offer as a good offer and will keep the students first,” Strafaci said. “I believe that they will honor the terms of the agreement.”

If a compromise cannot be reached, the negotiating process will continue with the help of mediators from the California Public Employment Relations Board.

Les Chisolm, Sacramento regional director for PERB, said a third party would try and help them with communications. Mediators do this by providing the perspective of someone who is not directly involved and they suggest proposals.

“More times than not, the process does end with some resolution,” Chisolm said.