Unions, UC reach agreement

    After over three years of negotiations with its lecturers and one year of negotiations with its professional and technical employees, the University of California announced that tentative contracts had been reached with both employees’ unions on May 29.

    According to UC spokesperson Paul Schwartz, the University of California’s current budget difficulties were one factor that led to the resolution of the two separate agreements at the same time.

    “”The unions had come to grips with the fact that there was not going to be significant change with respect to wages at this time,”” Schwartz said.

    The tentative contract between the University of California and the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, which represents approximately 1,600 UC lecturers, raises base salaries for lecturers, who have been working for less than six years, from the current $27,000 to $37,000 by 2005.

    The contract also features better wording to the effect of improving job security for lecturers with six years or more of experience.

    According to local UC-AFT President and visual arts professor Fred Lonidier, security for lecturers below the six-year mark — which is when they are up for review by the university — has been a problem both at UCSD and at a system-wide level. Until the six-year review, at which time academic departments have had to decide whether to re-hire the lecturer with some level of increased security, lecturers were only guaranteed to be rehired on a quarter-by-quarter basis, regardless of the number of years they had been working or of their performance.

    “”Some departments have a policy that basically said that they like new blood, so often they would only hire lecturers for about two years,”” Lonidier said. “”Some departments would renew people for three of four years but wouldn’t renew them for a fifth because they would not want them to reach that sixth year.””

    Lonidier said that while many firing cases illustrating this scenario were brought against the university and won by the union, the issue had been brought to the bargaining table to avoid having to continue fighting against this practice.

    “”This speaks to the national problem, from community colleges to high-research institutions, where large parts of faculty are becoming employees on a non-tenure track,”” Lonidier said. “”Making headway on this, we become a model for education across the nation.””

    According to Lonidier, while the new contract wording seems to make concessions in favor of increased security for both pre- and post-six-year lecturers, its language remains less strong than what the union had asked for, and while the union feels that the contract points to the university giving greater recognition to the importance of lecturers, its applications in practice remain to be seen.

    “”Our lecturers play a critical role in helping UC fulfill its instructional mandate, and we believe this agreement helps to recognize the valuable contributions they make to the university,”” said UC Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Benefits Judith W. Boyette in a May 29 statement.

    Lecturers represent about 12 percent of the University of California’s total faculty.

    The lecturers’ contract also includes additional prohibitions against strikes and a commitment to review workloads in targeted programs.

    The tentative contract with the University Professional and Technical Employees union, which represents approximately 4,400 research support professional employees and 4,000 technical employees, addresses the key issue that the union had been protesting through a compromise. Where in the past laid-off employees were forced by the university to choose between severance pay and preferential re-hiring — with the union asking for both — the new contract would now allow for a third option in the form of a “”combination”” package of less-than-full severance pay in coordination with limited preferential re-hire rights.

    Research professionals also gained steady wage increases, with differing forms of merit step increases across the board for union employees.

    Representatives from both unions have indicated wider acceptance of the new contracts than that displayed by clerical union members following the settlement of their contract with the university in April, which gave workers wage increases far below what the union had originally demanded.

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