California State University administration and its faculty union ended a year-long impasse over salary increases and averted a planned strike, the two sides announced Friday morning.
The deal gives faculty the raises they had demanded but manages to avoid cuts to other programs that university administrators had said were preventing them from granting salary increases.
The terms call for a 10.5 percent general salary increase for faculty union members over the next three years. Much of that will have arrived by July 1: if the deal's approved, faculty would see a 5 percent increase on June 30 and an additional 2 percent bump two days later, on the start of the next fiscal year. Faculty will also receive an additional 3.5 percent raise in 2017.
"We made the case — the case that our faculty have been languishing financially for a decade," said California Faculty Association president Jennifer Eagan.
The agreement must now be ratified by the CFA's membership. The CSU Board of Trustees will also vote on the contract at their May meeting.
In a call with reporters on Friday morning, CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the faculty raises will cost $200 million over the course of the three years.
White said spreading the financial impact over a longer timeframe will allow the university system to avoid a financial hit on other programs.
White said the university had already planned for a 2 percent pay raise for faculty in the current fiscal year, but since that raise won't be enacted until June 30, the school can carry that funding forward to cover much of the cost of the raises.
In an interview with KPCC, White said the deal would not prompt any job cuts or reductions in student services, information technology upgrades or renovation projects.
"This agreement is great for students in so many ways," White said. In addition to avoiding the strike, he said, it will make the university system's salary scale more competitive and allow Cal State to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.
While already-budgeted funds carried forward will cover much of the cost of the deal, they won't cover everything.
White estimated CSU campuses will still have to find $18 million to cover the full cost of the raises in 2016-17. He said Cal State's financial chiefs are confident the 23-campus university system can make up that difference through efficient purchasing, cash management and legislative changes.
Administrators will also have to open talks with other on-campus unions whose collective bargaining agreements include "fairness clauses" — also referred to as "me-too" provisions — that allow their members to ask the university for raises similar to what faculty union members received.
White said he could not estimate the eventual cost of these increases since they would be the result of further negotiations with the respective unions.
The system's ability to afford the raises faculty proposed has been a point of contention since the two sides re-opened salary portions of their contract for negotiation last May.
Until this deal, university administrators had offered a 2 percent pay bump, arguing that they simply could not afford any higher.
On March 15, an independent fact-finder sided with union’s demands, calling on CSU management to hike faculty pay by 5 percent and offer additional “service salary increases" — salary increases that prevent more senior employees from receiving less pay than new hires — to approximately 43 percent of the faculty.
White said the fact-finder's report broke the impasse in negotiations. He said the report — even while supporting the faculty's core contentions — also vindicated administrators' claim that the university system couldn't afford the union's demands in a one-year timeframe.
"It opened the opportunity for the CFA to say, 'Okay, let's go back, we can reconsider and we can actually solve this over three years instead of three months,'" White said.
"That happened after the fact-finding report," he added. "That changed the landscape for our conversations, and when that happened, we were able to resolve this strike pretty quickly."
"What that report ended up doing is it got us back into a focused conversation to avert the strike, because nobody — faculty, myself, anyone in this building, the leadership of our campuses — wanted this strike," White said.
White said that, despite its resolution, the contract argument points to larger problems of higher education funding in California. He said the state is not funding the university systems at a high enough level, calling the dispute a "symptom" of larger problems and pledging to lobby legislators and the governor for more funding.
California State Students Association president Taylor Herren — who said she was "relieved and excited" about the deal — said the agreement presages even more aggressive advocacy in Sacramento.
"We're just excited and look to both the faculty and administration to both join and include us in whatever they do moving forward," said Herren, a graduate student at Cal State Chico.