1435 Morris Avenue - Suite 3A, Union, NJ 07083
Tim Haresign, President
President's Report - State of Negotiations
Do Our College Presidents Value Our Contributions to Quality Education?
The faculty, professional staff, and librarians at the nine institutions comprising the Council of NJ State Locals have been, and always will be, committed to providing the highest quality education possible to the students we serve. We question whether College Presidents share this commitment. We have been working without a contract since July of 2015 when our contract expired. During this time, we have experienced declining wages in real dollars and increased health care costs. These conditions have put economic stress on everyone and have hit our newer hires and others at the lower end of the economic scale especially hard. It is an ongoing detriment to our ability to attract high level candidates to our Colleges and Universities. As this has been occurring the Presidents have continued their trend of hiring greater and greater numbers of contingent faculty who are well qualified, but are paid very poorly and have no job security, often working on five month contracts with no guarantee of a job after that.
When management finally put an economic offer on the table in our current negotiations (in Aug. 2016, thirteen months AFTER the contract expired), their offer of a four-year contract on across the board increases was 0%, 0%, 1%, and 1% percent and no salary increments for the first two years. This month they increased their COLA offer only by a minimal amount and no retroactive increments. This is how much they think we are worth. Make no mistake, there is no metaphor here. Those numbers are a management’s direct valuation of the employees who teach, counsel, and serve the students in their institutions. This might not be so surprising given that one of the parties we negotiate with is the Governor’s office and this Governor has made no secret of his general dislike of Unions and his specific dislike of teachers’ Unions. However, the other party on the management team consists of the College Presidents of the nine institutions represented by our Union and no matter what you may hear, they play a significant role in these negotiations.
The Presidents will claim that they have no influence on the across the board increases or increment proposals, that these come from the Governor. Go ahead, ask them. I don’t know if it is true, but it is one of their favorite lines to deflect attention away from all the other proposals that the Presidents put on the table which aim to reduce economic benefits and security, increase workloads, and to weaken protections found in the contract. It obfuscates the fact that they have had the authority to bank the savings they were realizing during the current freeze on increments in order to pay it back when the contract is settled. It moves the conversation away from the fact that for years they have been moving more and more teaching away from full-time faculty and replacing them with contingent faculty. These are hiring decisions that by law are under the control of the Presidents and their Boards of Trustees. We have multiple proposals on the table that would create better economic conditions for this class of exploited workers and give them a very small amount of medium term job security. At this point, most of these proposals have been rejected by the Presidents. Shame on them.
The Presidents and the Boards of Trustees have an extraordinary degree of autonomy over how they prioritize and structure their budget. Indeed, they often use this autonomy to provide large raises, bonuses, and fringe benefits to the Presidents and other high level administrators. However, they need to remember that their most valuable resource is the people who directly work with students every day.
So I urge all of our members to ask your College Presidents directly, at every opportunity, and on the record about whether they support all of the proposals that are in management’s offer to us. As the President of the Council I can say directly and with no dissembling or political double-speak that I support all the proposals the Union has put forward, and each of the Presidents of our campus Locals can do the same. I can see no reason why the College Presidents shouldn’t be able to provide clear and unambiguous answers to the same questions about their proposals.
If they do support the proposals, then at least we know that their priorities lie with creating a less stable and economically weaker work force to educate NJ’s students. That would be short-sighted thinking that doesn’t bode well for long term quality of higher education – but at least we will know where they stand. If they don’t support some or all of their proposals, it is incumbent upon them to speak up against them and to re-prioritize their budgets towards valuing and respecting those who educate and care for our students. In that endeavor, we stand ready and willing to work hand in hand with the Presidents to find mutually beneficial arrangements.