CUNY Seeks Mediation to Reach Settlement on PSC Contract

January 26, 2016 | The University

The City University of New York today notified the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) of the existence of an impasse and requested the appointment of a mediator to reach a new labor settlement in the long-standing collective bargaining negotiations between the University and the Professional Staff Congress, the union that represents the faculty and professional staff at CUNY’s 24 public colleges and graduate and professional schools.

A 10-page petition was filed with PERB by University General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick Schaffer, following a bargaining session on Monday and consultation with CUNY’s Board of Trustees and Chancellor.   The University stated that negotiations are irresolvable, and asked for PERB’s assistance.  The parties are now in their sixth year without a collective bargaining agreement, which expired on Oct. 19, 2010.

The petition further stated: “CUNY is desirous of reaching a prompt and equitable resolution of the outstanding issues. With a CUNY collective bargaining agreement that has been expired for more than five years and the last across-the-board increases paid more than six years ago, it is critical for the stability of the workplace and morale of our faculty and staff that a process be put in place that will aid in a resolution.”

In addition to the bargaining session this week, the University and the union have held 26 negotiation sessions and approximately 23 smaller committee meetings. The petition to PERB notes that there has been demonstrable due diligence with respect to the availability of management and labor to work on outstanding issues.

CUNY is offering a six-year contract covering the period from Oct. 20, 2010 to Oct. 19, 2016, with raises and important non-economic benefits. The offer reflects CUNY’s current fiscal condition and its ability to fund a new contract for its faculty and staff. The wage increases total 6 percent as follows: 1 percent on April 20, 2014; 1 percent on April 20, 2015; 3 percent on April 20, 2016; and an additional 1 percent on Oct. 19, 2016. Since the expiration of the last contract, annual salary step increments were maintained and a historic agreement was reached on adjunct health insurance.

The salary offer has been rejected by the union.  The PSC has proposed a 14 percent wage increase over the same six-year period, a workload reduction and approximately several hundred million dollars in retroactive pay.  Additionally, both sides remain far apart on a variety of non-salary issues. In its filing to the board, the University cited 13 outstanding issues. The union has presented more than 30 issues that remain unresolved.

The petition also noted that on Oct. 20, 2015, the PSC announced its intention to hold a strike authorization vote. PSC President Barbara Bowen on Dec. 16, 2015, announced to members an opportunity to sign a public statement of commitment to vote “yes” on the upcoming strike authorization vote.

The University petition quoted Bowen’s announcement in which she stated: “That’s why I am asking you today to pledge your commitment to vote ‘yes’ on strike authorization. Please consider the pledge carefully and add your name. Give the union the power we need. By signing, you pledge that you will vote ‘yes’– and indicate that you are prepared, if necessary, to join a strike or other job action.”

The University petition further noted: “The parties’ inability to agree to terms of a successor agreement after several years and many bargaining sessions and the PSC’s publicized campaign strategy to seek a strike authorization vote and a public commitment by its members that they will, in fact, strike, demonstrate that the parties have reached an impasse which they cannot resolve without the assistance of the Public Employment Relations Board.”

A strike is illegal under the New York State Taylor Law and would have serious negative consequences for the University and its students as well as the union and participating members.

General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Schaffer indicated that CUNY’s leadership has consistently emphasized that a collective bargaining agreement with the union was the University’s “highest priority,” and that the University strongly recognizes the importance of obtaining a fair labor settlement.