Pay increase leaves some behind

By Drew Hunt

Amid ongoing salary negotiations between Columbia’s administration and the part-time faculty and staff unions, President Warrick L. Carter announced a 1 percent pay increase for all full-time faculty and non-union staff effective Nov. 15. Full-time faculty and non-union staff will also receive a one-time bonus of 1 percent on Dec. 15.

Members of the United Staff of Columbia College, the union representing a majority of college staff, as well as the Part-Time Faculty Association, the union representing part-time faculty, will not receive a pay increase until their negotiations with the college are complete.

The US of CC said it has been seeking an increase since the union’s creation was ratified on Feb. 8.

According to an e-mail from union leaders that was sent to all unionized staff members on Oct. 20, the wage increase given to non-union staff reflects the efforts of the US of CC to move the college beyond its initial wage offer of “zero,” as well as the college’s later offer of a 1 percent increase—the same increase given to non-union staff and full-time faculty.

However, Ellen Krutz, vice president of Human Resources, said in a subsequent e-mail addressed to all staff and faculty on Oct. 21 that at no time during negotiations with the US of CC did the college make an offer of “zero.” The only offer made on behalf of the college was the same one proposed to non-union staff—in the amount of 1 percent, Krutz said in the e-mail.

In a later e-mail addressed to members of the US of CC, also sent on Oct. 21 from union leaders, the union said while the word “zero” may not have been used, the implication was clear to every bargaining committee member in attendance that no staff pay raise would be on the table for the academic year.

Some staff members said they are confused as to why negotiations continue despite the college’s offer of a 1 percent pay increase.

“From my experience with the union and my experience with the college, I believe what the college is telling us and not what the union is telling us,” said Steve Newman, assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Jennie Fauls, assistant director of First-Year Writing, said she speculates the money for a wage increase simply isn’t available.

“I know that’s arguable and no one can prove exactly where the money would come from,” Fauls said. “We haven’t seen any evidence of success in negotiations. But we have seen staff members indicating a tone of discontent. There’s clearly something going on.”

Mike Bright, president of the US of CC and administrative assistant in the Film and Video Department, said unionized staff members have nothing to worry about concerning their wages.

“We’re still at the table, we’re still negotiating,” Bright said. “If we were to take this offer that they put out for everyone else, we would be afforded those same increases.”

Bright said while the offer of a 1 percent pay increase was given by the college, the US of CC rejected the offer because it is still possible for unionized staff members to receive an increase exceeding 1 percent.

“We hope to get more, that’s all I can say,” Bright said. “We’re going to go back and tell stories about what our members are experiencing and see how the college responds to that.”

In the event the college continues to reject a pay increase of more than 1 percent, Bright said the US of CC will continue to work with the administration to view all the options availabl,e and hopefully move forward to secure an increase for unionized staff.

“We want to do as much as we can to get them as much as we can because we feel [the staff] works hard,” Bright said. “I’m motivated by trying to get some fairness in the workplace.”

While Newman said he believes the union will continue to negotiate on behalf of the staff, he also said he has grown frustrated with the constant back and forth between the college and the US of CC.

“I never wanted to be a part of the union to begin with,” Newman said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

College administration could not be reach for comment as of press time.