July/August 2013 Issue
June 22, 2013

UUP wins contract; adjuncts at St. Francis make gains

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

A new five-year contract covering the State University of New York's higher education professionals has been ratified by members of United University Professions.

The union, the NYSUT affiliate that represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty on SUNY campuses, overwhelmingly approved the pact with the state, with 77 percent of those who cast ballots in favor.

"This definitive vote affirms that our members understand the challenging times in which these negotiations took place. We are very pleased to deliver a fair and equitable contract," said UUP President Fred Kowal.

The contract, retroactive to July 2, 2011, includes salary increases starting this year; preservation of health benefits and maintenance of dental and vision benefits; elimination of co-pays for several yearly preventative-care exams; and salary awards for career milestones.

It also includes a first-ever requirement that discretionary salary awards be distributed to part-time and full-time employees, as well as a nine-day deficit-reduction provision aimed at yielding savings for SUNY; seven of those days will be repaid to members at the end of the contract.

St. Francis adjuncts

When adjunct professors at St. Francis College return for the fall semester, they will build on the recent success their fledgling union has fought hard to secure.

The St. Francis College Adjunct Faculty Union, which voted in an NLRB representation election to affiliate with NYSUT in 2010, will continue to organize and set its sights on electing officers, said Interim President Adam Tripp.

The 2012-13 year marked the union's first under its inaugural contract that brought adjuncts a pay increase, and the establishment of both a medical assistance fund to help adjunct faculty without health insurance pay for premiums, as well as a professional development fund enabling adjuncts to attend conferences and workshops.

Tripp said efforts to win the union's first contract were "slow going" at first, but the turning point came after members passed a strike-authorization vote in March. "That was a strong signal" to the college that it was time to get serious, Tripp said. Adjuncts also succeeded in having the college end the titles of "Adjunct 1" and "Adjunct 2" for the more professional sounding "Adjunct Lecturer" and "Senior Adjunct Lecturer." The new titles, officials say, offer a more fair and clear path for promotion.

The college also now recognizes terminal degrees other than merely doctorates as one path to the more-senior status, and offers adjuncts a path to promotion through years of service. The bargaining unit represents about 225 adjuncts, Tripp said.

A COLA win for 853 Schools, Special Acts

Although they've had no hike in their tuition rates since 2008, a Cost-of-Living Adjustment increase on the direct costs associated with 853 Schools and Special Act schools for the 2013-14 school year will be realized.

The COLA raise is a by-product of NYSUT's fierce lobbying efforts during this year's state budget process, which aimed at including a COLA in the spending plan. The union's advocacy raised awareness of the issue, prompting the state Division of the Budget to approve a COLA for 2013-14 tuition rates.

The COLA is not a traditional across-the-board increase. Instead, the affected schools will see a 3 percent increase in their direct costs. Since direct costs typically range from 60 to 80 percent of all costs, this creates a total increase in their tuition rate, ranging from about 2 percent to 2.75 percent. The exact amount per school depends on its cost structure.

Leaders should contact their NYSUT labor relations specialist to discuss strategy on how to bargain these new rates into collective bargaining agreements.