Faculty sees big win in 11th-hour contract

Even as local faculty union leaders announced an impending strike vote, negotiations behind the scenes were moving the California Faculty Association closer to a contract agreement with the California State University system.

In the wee hours of March 2, the sides reached a tentative agreement that will be voted on by union members at Chico State University March 18-21.

“It’s a big win for CFA. We got an even better deal than we were hoping to get,” said Prof. Beau Grosscup, president of Chico State’s chapter of the CFA. On March 5, the chapter’s executive committee unanimously voted to recommend that members vote to ratify the three-year agreement.

If given the final OK by both faculty members and the CSU Board of Trustees, the new contract would include a 2 percent raise this year and another 2 percent raise in 2002, no matter what happens with the state budget. In addition, eligible faculty members will get an additional 2.65 percent in the form of a service salary increase (SSI), a program that Chancellor Charles Reed had sought to eliminate. Plus, SSI money will no longer be taken out of the pool of funds allocated for general salary increases.

In addition, Grosscup said, “the lecturers are big winners on this.” Most will now be eligible for health benefits if they hold .4 of a full-time position, rather than the current .5. And lecturers who have been working six years straight will be entitled to three-year contracts.

Finally, the CSU promised to start looking for 1,200 new tenured faculty members to lower the ratio of students to professors and lessen the practice of relying on part-time help.

The only big slap, Grosscup said, comes in the administration of this year’s raises: Instead of increases retroactive to July 1, 2001, they will take effect this April 1. Grosscup called the move Reed’s revenge. “Unless we agreed to that, he wasn’t going anywhere,” he said. “[Reed sent the message that] ‘I’m going to punish you for standing up to me.'”

In a press release, Reed stated, “We are very pleased to have reached an agreement that is mutually acceptable and continues to provide competitive salary increases and benefits for faculty as well as part-time lecturers.”

Grosscup credited CFA members’ persistence in showing up wherever Reed appeared in public for pressuring him to see faculty’s side. Also, he said, it’s widely thought that the fact-finding report, which was completed last week but has yet to be released, strongly supports the union’s position.