Faculty and administration of California State University on Wednesday announced talks aimed at averting a looming faculty strike.
Chancellor Timothy White has participated in negotiations directly for the first time, according to a release from the California Faculty Association.
Association President Jennifer Eagan said in a letter to members that talks intensified Tuesday with White’s participation. The talks will continue for the next two days as negotiators attempt to come to an agreement before an April 13 strike date that would affect all 23 statewide campuses.
During the two-day period, to encourage fruitful talks, faculty and CSU management have agreed to a news “blackout period.”
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“During this quiet time we hope to develop an agreement that not only settles the contract reopener but also can lead to an improved relationship between faculty and the CSU administration,” read the letter from Eagan to faculty.
Neither party will talk to the news media during the blackout period. The association is asking faculty to put strike preparations on hold.
“At the conclusion of the 48 hours we will either have a tentative agreement or it will be full speed ahead towards a strike,” said Eagan.
In a report released March 28 as part of a mandatory arbitration process, a fact finder concluded that CSU should offer its teaching staff a 5 percent raise, along with additional increases for about 43 percent of faculty who make less than more recently hired colleagues.
Eagan said last month that the union was further motivated to strike by the report, which she called a “validation.”
CSU dissented from the findings, arguing that it has no available funds to pay for the suggested compensation package. It already offered all employees a 2 percent raise this year. Because of me-too contract agreements with other staff unions, officials said, the ongoing cost of the 5 percent increase would be an extra $110 million per year, three times what the university has budgeted for.
There are nearly 10,000 tenured or tenure-track professors in the system making an average of about $84,000 per year. But lower-paid lecturers, many of whom are only part time, now comprise more than half the teaching staff in the system; they receive an average rate per class equivalent to a $50,645 salary.
The faculty association – which represents approximately 25,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches – previously announced it would strike for five days in April across all 23 CSU campuses if a salary deal was not reached. It would be the largest strike in the university’s history.
The union has previously held a strike only once, in 2011, walking out for one day on two campuses to protest budget cuts.