Nearly every year, tuition and student fees are raised in the California State University system. Every time contract renewals come along, CSU faculty and employee unions say they have to fight for decent salaries.
This year the California State University Employees Union has been in contract negotiations since March. Tentative agreements have been reached with easier, non-economic issues, but salaries and benefits are still in negotiations.
In the last three years, student fees have gone up and tuition was raised, but technical support, clerical and administrative support, operation specialists, and healthcare workers received no increase from 2003 to 2005.
Chancellor Charles Reed has made a semi-proposal offering a 3.64 percent raise this year, 5.25 percent next year and approximately 6 percent the year after, according to CSUEU Vice President of Representation Dennis Dillan.
“However, we’re currently asking for 4 percent, 6 percent and 8 percent over the next three years to be broken up into various programs,” Dillan said.
CSU employees say that each year with no raise or low raises has significantly affected their buying power due to the rising costs of living.
“People have to work two jobs to make ends meet and attempt to keep up with costs of living,” said CSUN’s employee union president J. B. Ducasta. “They’re nickel and dime-ing us on raises.”
According to CSUEU President Pat Gantt, the negotiations have so far resulted in “narrowing our differences.”
Dillan believes the CSUEU should know where they stand in the negotiations better at the beginning of November when the Chancellor files the CSU budget request. In the past the budget has been filed before Nov. 1, but this year, according to Dillan and Gantt, the budget request will be pushed back until after the elections. Student fees and employee raises will be determined on the amount requested for compensation.
“We delayed so we can wait for the outcome of the election, but we only did that so we can better work with the new administration and new finance director if Governor Schwarzenegger is not re-elected,” said Paul Browning, CSU media relations specialist. Browning denied accusations that the delay was arranged in order to affect the votes.
Schwarzenegger has a contract with CSU that guarantees funding for an average annual student enrollment increase of 8,000 until 2011, according to Browning. “If Angelides get elected, then the budget will be much different,” Browning said.
“They raise student fees because they can,” Gantt said. “The average student is working more, taking longer to graduate and incurring more debt. No wonder CSU enrollment is down.”
“Students can be involved and get the legislature to address CSU needs – they’re affected just as much,” Dillan said. “There are 400,000 CSU students, that’s 400,000 voters.”
Along with contract negotiations, CSUEU is working with other unions on getting the state legislature to fund the many needs of CSU. The CSU needs more money to function and CSUEU doesn’t want that money to have to come from students, Dillan said.
So far in the negotiations CSUEU has managed to agree on the language in the contract that deals with exempt employees. Exempt employees, such as I.T. staff members, have no fixed hours and do not get paid overtime; hopefully now managers will be clearer and more flexible on excessive hours, Dillan said.
The grievance and complaint process is known for its lengthiness, but the contract now makes it easier to “gain redress in a timelier manner,” Dillan said. “We’ve hopefully made our processes cleaner and quicker to address problems in the workplace.”
Dillan said CSUEU is not far from closing the discussion on employee training and advancement, the professional development article, holidays article and management rights article. Other than salaries and benefits, a sticking point for the CSUEU negotiations team is parking fees. In the past, employee parking fees have increased unfairly considering the salary increases, and parking fees are no longer used only for parking needs, Dillan said.
The CSUEU represents a wide range of CSU employees and negotiations can be difficult. “You have to balance out high wages and low wages, old and young employees. Scale is important,” Dillan said.
“These are dedicated employees who love working with students and their coworkers,” he added. “If we decide to strike, we have to think about what effect it would have on students and how it would affect our public reputation. What would have happened if we had decided to strike on the first week of school this semester?”