Staff union resolves pay negotiations

By Drew Hunt

After months of negotiations between the United Staff of Columbia College and the college administration, the two parties have come to terms on the details of a pay increase for all unionized staff. The agreement includes a 1 percent increase in salary, retroactive to Sept. 1, as well as 1 percent bonus to come on Jan. 15, 2011.

Earlier this year, the college offered non-unionized staff and full-time faculty an identical pay increase, which went into place immediately. However, the US of CC continued its negotiations, seeking to secure a higher salary for the unionized staff.

But according to Jennie Fauls, assistant director of the First-year Writing program, in an article published by the Chronicle on Oct.25, as time passed, non-negotiating members of the US of CC grew impatient with the lack of progress in bargaining.

A portion of the staff remains at odds with union officers concerning a myriad of issues. Many cite a lack of transparency on behalf of the US of CC as contributing to mistrust among the its members.

However, according to Linda Naslund, administrative assistant in the Fiction Writing Department and a member of the US of CC’s negotiating team, any ill will directed toward the union is unfounded based on the results they were able to produce.

“We really worked hard at this,” Naslund said. “It’s not like we’re a bunch of doofuses who didn’t know what we were doing. ”

The US of CC also claimed the negotiations team was successful in forcing the college to repeal its initial offer of no wage increase to the current 1 percent, which Union President Mike Bright said in a press release was a great achievement.

However, Provost and Senior Vice President Steve Kapelke said the college never offered a zero percent increase and any assertion otherwise is patently untrue.

Regardless, the union’s officers held a vote in which non-negotiating members could have a say in whether the negotiations team should accept the college’s offer of 1 percent or continue bargaining for a higher salary.

Voting took place during Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 and resulted in 182 votes in favor of approving the offer and 24 votes rejecting—or 88 percent acceptance among those participating.

According to Naslund it is common for unions to allow its non-negotiating members to have a say in the process by way of a vote.

Naslund said although the union leaders might not have gotten the exact deal they strived for, members of the US of CC should be pleased with what they have accomplished in their negotiations.

“[We got] a salary increase and a bonus for unionized staff, which has never been done before here,” Naslund said. “We were hoping to get the best that we could. ”

But while negotiations proved to be a more complicated process than usual, Kapelke said bargaining ended congenially.

“Every negotiation has its own nature,” Kapelke said. “Some take longer, some not as long. The length of [the] negotiation doesn’t mean there were problems. ”

Kapelke also said the main goal of the negotiations was to assure unionized staff members the administration is consistently pleased with their efforts.

In the meantime, Naslund said the union is open to any of its non-negotiating members stepping forward to help with the next series of salary negotiations, which will take place in February 2011.

“We need more people to help out in the bargaining unit,” Naslund said. “If somebody thinks they can do a better job, I think we’d be happy to have them on our team.”