CUNY faculty end pay freeze with new contract deal

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After years of negotiations, protests and even a strike authorization vote, the Professional Staff Congress, the local representing City University of New York faculty and professional staff, has reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with CUNY administrators. The deal was announced June 16 by PSC President Barbara Bowen and CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken.

CUNY graduates supporting PSC"I am inspired by the PSC membership," says Bowen, who is an AFT vice president. "We were able to negotiate a strong, imaginative contract in a period of enforced austerity for public workers because our members mobilized." She noted that the contract emphasizes investment in high-quality education at CUNY, a mainstay of higher education for a diverse population in New York City.

The proposed contract provides 10.41 percent in compounded salary increases over a period of slightly more than seven years, from Oct. 20, 2010, through Nov. 30, 2017. CUNY faculty and professional staff, who have worked for more than six years without a raise, will receive retroactive payments and a signing bonus.

Equally important, the contract enacts significant structural changes that will fortify working and learning conditions at CUNY.

In a provision that will be crucial to the quality of education, the university has agreed to work toward structuring more time for faculty to devote to individual students. The tentative agreement also provides CUNY's first system of multiyear appointments for adjunct faculty, allowing thousands of instructors who are paid by the course to offer greater academic continuity to their students. Also as a result of the agreement, CUNY's professional staff will gain opportunities for advances in pay and title; new provisions recognize the centrality of the work staff do in CUNY's array of programs and student services.   

The tentative contract, which now must be ratified by PSC members and approved by the CUNY board of trustees, covers CUNY's academic workforce of 25,000, including full-time and adjunct professors and lecturers, higher education officers, college laboratory technicians and other staff.

"On behalf of the union bargaining team, I commend our negotiating partners at CUNY, and I thank the many lawmakers in Albany and New York City—as well as the students and community groups—who offered essential support," says Bowen.

[PSC press release, Virginia Myers]