A fact finder’s report released last weekend has brought both the California State University Administration and the California Faculty Association, the union representing state university faculty members, back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract and avoid the possibility of a statewide strike. But a strike, which will be the largest ever in the history of the California state university system, will still be in the offing if both organizations fail to address the concerns addressed in the report. In fact, two-day rolling brown-outs beginning April 8 are still scheduled if both the CSU and CFA fail to come to an agreement.
The fact finding analysis, which is the last, legally mandated step before the CFA could strike, went into motion when talks between CSU and the CFA broke down last December. The report was researched by a panel that included a delegate each from the CSU and CFA, as well as a neutral third party mediator, Sylvia Skratek, a former Washington state senator who has a Ph.D in labor relations and conflict resolution. Both parties in the dispute expressed their willingness to use the report’s recommendations in their continued discussions to resolve their differences, but union spokesperson Alice Sunshine has also stated that if faculty concerns, particularly regarding salary increases, are not addressed then the strike will go on as planned.
Skratek has earned particular praise from both CFA President John Travis and CSU Vice Chancellor Jackie McClain for her “acumen and insights” in addressing the various concerns between both the university and faculty. However, McClain has written a six-page dissent regarding the report’s recommendations regarding six articles, with a particular focus on issues regarding faculty salary increases. The two main types of salary increases mentioned in the report are General Salary Increases (GSI), in which faculty members are given “regularly scheduled wage increases,” and Service Salary Increases (SSI), a performance-based wage increase. At issue is the SSI, which Skratek criticizes, stating that the irregularity of salary increase schedules “defy logical explanation” due to the many revisions added to the SSI over the years. In her dissent to Skratek’s evaulation over the SSIs, McClain wrote that “[t]he neutral’s recommendation for a salary package goes beyond the fiscal priority set by the Trustees.” McClain also stated that university management might not be able to meet salary wage requirements recommended in the report by the 2009-10 fiscal year, arguing that the system might not be able to have the funds to pay for such increases by that time. Sunshine responded by stating McClain’s comments are an example of the administration’s lack of priorities when it came to setting salary increases for faculty. Though neither party brought “hard budget numbers or calculations for the Panel to review,” Skratek did confirm that the university stated its issues regarding salary increases were more “philosophical in nature,” and had less to do with an inability to pay for them.
Yet all three parties did agree that any available funds for salary increases, including the hiring of tenure-track faculty, should come from the state legislature. Both the CSU and CFA wrote a joint letter of agreement on this issue back in 2003 to California state assemblymember Virginia Strom-Martin. Yet Skratek’s report pointed out that the state legislature had made no moves to include funds appropriated for that resolution.
George Diehr, who chairs the CFA’s bargaining committee, is “cautiously optimistic” about a resolution to the union’s and the administration’s differences, stating that the administration’s agreement to follow the fact finder report’s recommendations means a strike will become less likely. “They have made a last, best and final offer, and it’s closer to being acceptable.”
Source: The Golden Gate Express