Editor’s Note: Higher-ups should be fed up with staff contract halts, not just union


Editor’s Note: New CFO needs to bring financial confidence back

By Editor-in-Chief

As reported on Page 3, members of the United Staff of Columbia College lined the entrance of a contract negotiation meeting Oct. 18, chanting and expressing frustrations. Some were even holding up copies of the Oct. 10 issue of The Chronicle that displayed former Columbia president Warrick Carter’s $2 million payout as they pointed out how the discussions have been ongoing for more than three years.

 US of CC members are still working under their 2010 contract, as reported Dec. 14, 2015, by The Chronicle.

The story, even this column, sounds like it has been written several times before. From a historical standpoint, the narrative of the disgruntled union striving for a deal with an administration they feel is not holding up their responsibility will likely be written again. 

Voicing staff frustration in public settings is not new for US of CC, which used the tactic in attempts to speed up contract negotiations or support other sensible demands such as raises. Throughout years of negotiation, it has staged pickets, facilitated open-member meetings with administrators and circulated petitions. In one of its clever attempts during the Fall 2015 Semester, the union placed “C.O.L.A.” cans throughout campus to express anger about the lack of a cost of living adjustment, which had not been awarded since negotiations began in 2012.

Though staff members expressed expectation that the July arrival of new Associate Vice President of Human Resources Norma de Jesus would help accelerate negotiations,  they say this has only caused more delays as she gets up to speed and as parties navigate her new ideas.

Though the college needed a permanent H.R. official, and it is not her fault that she arrived at the college in the midst of a years-long administration-employee battle, the negotiations should not have been delayed into the time de Jesus assumed her role. At the very least, the college should have gotten it done before she began to avoid additional hold-ups that are inevitable when bringing in a new team member. 

These delays, while of course disappointing to the union, should be equally as frustrating to college higher-ups working on the contract. Though the slow movement does directly  affect the administration, there are other residual effects that should make them want the process to move quickly.

While bargaining team members said after the Oct. 18 meeting that they are confident and happy with how close the union is to a contract, it is difficult to think any progress is actually being made considering those same sentiments have been expressed many times.

During a period of great fluidity  at Columbia, where some things change often and quickly, staff members should not undergo several years of negotiation stops and starts. This process should be seen as a priority, and some college initiatives that have been expedited should take a backseat.

Projects started by the college that have been seen as priority, including the recent rebranding initiative and the student center, prove that some initiatives—even ones that take massive amounts of time and money—can be pushed faster if so desired.

A lack of a contract for staff has a large effect on employee morale and finances. These employees are also involved in student lives on a day-to-day basis and the union’s unnecessary back-and-forth with the college could impact the student experience or morale, especially if the staff chooses to leave or cannot afford to stay. 

If students are customers, then the employees on the ground act as customer service—the most important element of an institution or business wanting to increase its revenue. The college cannot afford to push these staff members to the side any longer while attempts to turn around enrollment are in full force.