California State University and its faculty union announced a tentative agreement Tuesday on a four-year contract that provides no pay raises but averts the potential for strikes this fall at the system's 23 campuses.
The deal culminates two years of often contentious negotiations over salary, class sizes, faculty stability and other issues, punctuated by one-day strikes at two campuses in November. Those were the first walkouts since the union was formed in 1983.
Before the agreement was reached, members of the California Faculty Assn., which represents 23,000 Cal State professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches, had authorized two-day rolling strikes at all campuses in the upcoming academic year.
Negotiations, though, were overshadowed by the budget crisis in Sacramento, which saw Cal State and the University of California each absorb $750 million in funding cuts last year. And if voters fail to approve a tax initiative backed by Gov. Jerry Brown on the November ballot, each system will be hit with an additional $250-million reduction next year.
During contract talks, Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed was intent on containing costs, of which personnel make up the biggest portion. The faculty association had been seeking 1% pay increases for each year of the contract but settled for preserving salaries, most benefits and other protections.
"It's always a bitter pill when folks who haven't had raises for years and years don't get them," said union President Lillian Taiz, a professor of history at Cal State L.A. "But it's not just us. People all over California are living this experience. We felt the request was modest, but it was not in the cards at this time."
The agreement preserves some job security for long-term lecturers — with three-year appointments — provided they receive satisfactory evaluations.
The deal also maintains the same level of pay for faculty members who teach extension courses, which have higher costs than regular academic classes. And the faculty group agreed to have union dues cover more of the costs of faculty leaders who do union work.
The agreement also calls for a new committee made up of faculty and administrators to study the effects of increasing class sizes and workloads.
"We're gratified and relieved we've reached an agreement," said Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. "It's time for both the administration and faculty to be on the same page with regard to what's happening with the system and to concentrate on efforts to generate revenue that's critical to the system right now."
Faculty members have not had a raise in five years. The last contract expired two years ago, with Reed withholding pay raises negotiated for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, citing budget constraints. The new contract, which must still be ratified by union members and the Board of Trustees, would run through June 30, 2014.
Under the pact, the two sides can reopen salary and benefit talks for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
But that could prove a dicey proposition for faculty if more funding cuts are ordered.
At a trustees meeting in July, officials outlined several severe options, including a midyear tuition increase of $150 per semester, or about 5%; a 2.5% across-the-board reduction in employee pay and benefits; and a reduction in time given to faculty for research, sabbaticals and other non-teaching activities.
Other possibilities include: additional per-unit charges for course loads above 16 units, and a $1,000 increase in the tuition supplement paid by non-resident students.
A second strategy would forgo a tuition increase but reduce enrollment by about 6,000 students, eliminate 750 faculty and staff positions, and reduce pay and benefits by about 5.25% systemwide.
Meanwhile, tuition for undergraduates this fall will increase by 9% — or about $498 annually — to $5,970, not including campus-based fees, books and housing.