Unit 17 Librarian Bargaining Update for February 1, 2008
By Mike Rotkin, Chief Negotiator UC-AFT
Bargaining remained cordial and moved forward at a slow pace as both parties shared counter-offers on three or four articles each. These were not the most critical articles for either team – not salaries, review processes, or other critical issues. But in each instance the parties moved closer together on final language for the articles involved. Each side will bring counter proposals on five additional of the less-critical articles at our next bargaining session on February 22, 2008, in Oakland.
More significantly, away from formal bargaining at the table, UC’s Chief Negotiator has given us an indication of the serious problem the bargainers for both teams will face as a result of the uncertainty concerning the resolution of the State budget crisis. The State budget crisis now makes it likely that the University will not be in a position to make a meaningful offer on salary at least until the State budget is approved. We know that the University as an institution is not having a budget crisis – their unrestricted funds have been increasing exponentially for many years now. However, the University has traditionally paid all salaries not out of its general funds, but only from the money provided by the State of California in its annual budget. They simply choose to spend their other unrestricted funds on capital projects and priorities other than employee salaries, merits, and benefits.
While the UC-AFT is far from accepting a new contract with no money in it for salaries, it is probably realistic to assume that we will not come to an agreement over salaries until the budget is set for the year – and that is unlikely to happen before the end of the summer at the earliest. In the meantime, our MOU expires at the end of March. Consequently, the UC-AFT Negotiating Team (the group that comes to the table for each session) and the larger Bargaining Committee (two librarians from each campus) will be discussing how to respond to the current dilemma.
While the two parties can probably resolve differences on several of the more minor articles under discussion, it is unlikely that we will resolve the salary issue before the expiration of the MOU. Several other non-economic issues under discussion will also be difficult to resolve without a clearer idea of how the salary issues will be resolved. Once the issues we can resolve are completed in the next few meetings, it will make little sense for the two parties to engage in “slow down bargaining” or pretend bargaining until the University is in a position to at least understand what the State budget looks like. It is not clear how simply declaring impasse when the University is unable or unwilling to offer significant salary proposals would serve our members either.
So the UC-AFT team will need to decide how to approach this frustrating and unproductive situation. Options include seeking some kind of delay in bargaining, perhaps with some retroactivity agreement, or perhaps discussing an arrangement for a “trigger mechanism” which would guarantee librarians pay increases when the budget picture improves. We have not ruled out taking a stronger stand in which we would insist on some librarian salary improvements irrespective of the state budget. The University, of course, has not stopped offering dramatic pay increases for top executives despite the budget crisis and budget uncertainty. We would simply turn the Administration’s own rhetoric about institutional needs overriding budget concerns against them. Are librarians less important to the institution, the faculty, students, and the citizens of the State than those in the Executive Series?
Taking this approach will be highly confrontational and will require the serious mobilization of significant numbers of the librarians across the system and all of our supporters both inside and outside of the University community. Even some of the solutions that involve a delay in real bargaining over salaries may require significant mobilization and pressure from Unit 17 and our friends before the Administration is prepared to enact them. For example, we cannot assume that agreements about retroactivity, trigger mechanisms, or other arrangements necessary for us to accept postponing desperately needed salary increases would be easily approved by the UC Administration or their bargaining team.
In any case, before we decide exactly how we will respond to the State budget crisis and its impact on our bargaining, we will be consulting widely with first the larger Bargaining Committee and then, through them, with Unit 17 librarians throughout the system.