Librarian Bargaining Update for December 10, 2008
By Mike Rotkin, Chief Negotiator, UC-AFT
To say that UC Librarians will find this bargaining update disappointing is a classic understatement. We went to the bargaining table on December 10, with low expectations in terms of what the administration might offer in response to our two biggest economic issues – salaries and funds for professional development. In both areas, UC librarians lag far behind their colleagues with comparable education and experience at the California State Universities and most Community Colleges in California. We have also provided ample evidence that, despite the current world-wide economic crisis and the California budget crisis, that UC has more than sufficient unrestricted funds available to meet the reasonable demands of UC librarians. We also provided the Administration team with a relatively extensive list of other UC employees, including UC legal counsel, UC police, UC hospital workers, and others who have received significant pay increases or generous severance packages after the news of bank failures and the market crash hit. We have spent the last two bargaining sessions demonstrating all of this beyond any reasonable doubt.
Beyond this, we have demonstrated with an abundance of concrete evidence, that the negative impacts of significant under-compensation for UC librarians falls not only on librarians and their families, but on the UC libraries as institutions and on the faculty, students, staff, and public who depend on the UC libraries as users. Serious problems of recruitment and retention have resulted not only in increased workload for librarians working in understaffed departments, but also in the UC libraries falling in their national standing and declining levels of service for library patrons.
Given the current depressed economic mood, and irrespective of the actual ability of UC to meet our reasonable demands, librarians had not been expecting a generous proposal from the University Administration. We were, however, shocked when the Administration offered as a proposal, the current contract language for salary, i.e. absolutely no increase. The University also offered only a laughably small bump in professional development funding: a1% per year increase for the current minimum levels guaranteed at each campus through 2010 (this proposal represents a cost to the University of just a bit more than $8000).
Bargaining protocols prohibit us sharing the comments of individual members of the Administration team, but it was very clear that at least several of them shared our dismay at the lack of authority their team had been given to settle this contract. It has been generally clear that they do not deny the facts of our presentations and that, in general, they have no argument against our position that the UC librarians deserve significant pay increases and increased professional development funding. But they made it clear to us at the table that librarians are not a priority for UC.
It was tempting to simply declare impasse at that point and leave the table, but we have scheduled at least one more bargaining session on January 9, 2009 to test whether or not this is truly the Administration’s last and final offer. We intend to restructure our last offer (without beginning a process of bargaining against ourselves) to see if there is any way we can resolve our differences before declaring impasse.
Also at the bargaining session on December 10, the Administration did bring in two experts to provide us with additional information on the University budget and on the current state of the UC Retirement System (UCRS). Both presentations were well organized and helpful. While there was nothing in the budget presentation to dissuade us from believing that UC has the resources to fund the librarian proposals on the table, the presentation on UCRS did make a rather compelling case that contributions will need to be started up again if the system is going to maintain its ability to cover future retirements without reducing the benefits of the current retirement system. Of course it remains to be seen what those new contributions will be and what relative share will have to be contributed by the employer and the employees. The Administration expert did indicate that he thought the first increase in employee contributions would probably be a redirection of the 2% most employees currently have deducted for the Defined Contribution Plan. He also thought that there would be a match of some kind by the employer, but it was not clear at what percent that would be set. The Regents plan to take action on this matter in January (or perhaps February).
So, in sum, not a happy day at the bargaining table for librarians. We intend to continue and expand our education of our members, the campus community, and the general public about the current outrageous situation in the libraries. A meeting of the Librarian Bargaining Committee (two representatives from each campus) was also set for Saturday, January 10 in Oakland – exact location to be announced. (But if they have not done so, members of the bargaining committee should purchase their plane tickets and make hotel arrangements if they are staying overnight between the Friday bargaining session and the Bargaining Committee meeting on Saturday – contact Karen if you want help finding a place to stay.)