1435 Morris Avenue - Suite 3A, Union, NJ 07083
Tim Haresign, President

President's Report -The Year Ahead

As of July 1st of this year we entered the final year of our current contract (Sept. 1 for those on 10 month contracts).  For the first three years of the contract we received raises of 0%, 0%, and 1% and in this final year we are receiving a 1.75% raise. By any measure, this average of 0.7% increase per year has not kept pace with inflation.  Add to that our greatly increased cost for our health coverage and many of our members have effectively seen a pay cut over the term of this contract. So the natural question that arises is what is going to happen as we move into negotiations for our next state-wide contract?

It is unwise at this stage to make public predictions about what the college/university presidents and State might do, or to discuss our own strategies going into negotiations. But it is useful to talk about how the upcoming year is likely to unfold in terms of the negotiation process.  

Right now we are in the preparation stage for negotiations. While the Council would prefer to start negotiations earlier, typically the college/university presidents and State do not agree to begin negotiations until well into the Spring semester. The first phase of negotiations is an exchange of demands between the Union and management.  This means that we formally present a written list of proposed changes we would like to see to the current contract and the State presents their list to the Council. These demands can entail anything from minor changes to existing contract language, to large scale changes, including the addition, deletion or replacement of complete sections of the contract.  Again, this exchange typically doesn’t occur until the middle of the Spring semester at the earliest. 

After the formal exchange of demands there will be several sessions where the two sides sit at the table and go over each set of demands, asking questions about the rationale for the positions the other side has staked out.   It is also an opportunity to see if there are areas where the two sides agree at the start (or have negligible differences).  After these initial stages we will have a number of sessions where we attempt to reach agreement on the differences in our proposal positions. How long this takes depends on how often we can meet to negotiate and how willing each side is to work towards reasonable compromise to achieve a fair contract.  Typically we finish our contracts in the early summer of the year they expire (the contract expires June 30th) and vote to ratify the new contract in the early Fall of that year when the full membership is available to vote.  Our last set of negotiations (for our current contract) did not conclude for the full time unit until about 13 months after the contract expired and about 15 months after expiration for the adjunct faculty contract. 

Currently we are forming our negotiation teams. The teams (one for the full-time/part-time unit contract and one for the adjunct faculty contract) will have a fixed number of members from each of our locals. Each local will be responsible for determining who will serve on their team.  Typically those members then report back to the leadership of their local during negotiations and the leadership reports to the membership as appropriate.

Late this calendar year or early next year the Council will be sending out surveys to all our members to gauge the priorities of our membership on various negotiable items.  The results of this survey will be used to guide us as we formulate our demands to the State. Once our demands have been presented to the State, they will be made available to all of our members, as will the State’s demands. We do not want to make our demands public earlier since that would give management an advantage in formulating their demands.  During the negotiation process you will get periodic updates from you local leadership, but it is unrealistic to expect detailed accounts of the day to day negotiations.  And of course, it makes no sense to discuss our detailed strategy or our final “line in the sand” positions publically. 

One question that members often ask is, “What should we be doing during this process?” The answer is that we need the help and support of membership during negotiations more than any other time in the past.  For starters, make every effort this year and throughout the negotiations process to attend your local membership meetings.  There may be information disseminated at those meeting that will only be conveyed there. These meetings are also an opportunity to provide input and feedback to your union representatives. There also may be votes at those meetings on issues related to negotiations.  Second, make sure you fill out the survey when it is sent to you.  We need to know where membership stands on various issues. The more people who fill out the survey the more representative the results will be. 

Finally and most importantly, if and when you are called upon to engage in an action that demonstrates our solidarity and resolve, please stand up and take action.  Our strength as a Union is determined by our collective willingness to stand together and fight for the right of all of our members to have fair pay, affordable healthcare and working conditions conducive to providing an excellent education to the students we serve. We will not be able to achieve these goals if we don’t all stand together.

In Solidarity,