CSU, Employees Union mull 2 percent salary raise for staff

Natalie Babila

Although the California State University and the CSU Employees Union are still in final negations over salary and benefits, a 2 percent general salary increase has been tentatively proposed for staff members.

According to James Dacosta, president of the CSUN chapter of the CSUEU and Unix system administrator at Information Technology Resources, the general salary increase proposal was originally 3.5 percent, but it was lowered to two percent, with the difference consisting of benefits and other ancillary compensations.

“Our staff is overworked and underpaid,” Dacosta said.

“Many of our lower paid employees are having to get second jobs in order to make ends meet, especially on the urban campuses where there is a higher cost of living,” said Patrick Gantt, CSUEU president.

Sharon Abernatha, manager of Labor Relations for the CSU, said 3.5 percent is the pool of money that is available, and it has been proposed to divide that pool among uniforms, market equity and merit pay, and not just salary increases.

“We still have major differences on economics and non-economics, and part of that is because the university hasn’t totally engaged in the process because they waited four months (to respond),” Gantt said.

Abernatha said she is trying to determine what the union’s priorities are and respond to their concerns without affecting the CSU’s ability to provide what it defines as the best education to its students.

This summer’s negotiations come after three years of ongoing state budget cuts in the CSU system following a statewide budget shortfall. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised state budget has been sent to the state Legislature for approval and looks to restore some, but not all, of the system’s lost funding.

According to Gantt, the union has replied to the CSU offer and is awaiting a response.

Abernatha said there is an agreement between the two parties that certain staff classifications have salary lags, but added that any salary increases have to be within the amount of money that the CSU is given by the state.

“We do the work, we deal with the public, we help the students, we answer all their questions, and yet we are always getting nothing,” said Mary Herrera, an administrative services coordinator at CSU Fullerton.

Herrera, who has worked at CSU Fullerton for more than 25 years, said a 2 percent salary increase is “a big slap in the face,” and is nothing compared to what raises that administrators have received.

Herrera said she could not remember the last time she got a raise.

“Now we’re getting to the stage where we need to know that you can’t have everything,” Abernatha said. “So (we’re trying to find out) what is it that’s most important to them, and is that something we are willing to do.”

In addition, Gantt said the CSU has proposed that parking fees for staff members be set by each individual campus.

“They want to basically transfer all the authority to the campuses,” Gantt said. “If employees have to pay more parking fees, and they haven’t gotten a raise, that’s a loss in salary. People have to have competitive salaries before they can have any increase in parking fees,” Gantt said.

Upcoming bargaining sessions will be held at CSU Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo throughout July.