Some background first. Faculty and staff at UMass get no raises except through new contracts, which normally come every three years. If the state doesn’t want to pay raises, they can simply stall negotiations and the old contract terms remain in force — as public employees we are forbidden to strike. We went without any raises at all through most of the Weld administration, for example.
Our last raise was in July 2007, of 2% plus a 1% merit pool. The previous contract for 2004-2007 also had three raises of 2% plus 1% merit, paid on 4/05, 1/06, and 1/07. I say “paid then” but it’s really “effective then”, because it’s routine for the state to pay some raises retroactively when they are approved after their effective date. We got our agreed raise for 2001-02, for example, in October 2006.
Though officially our employer is the University, the governor’s office decides the “economic parameters” that the University may offer, and must submit the contract to the legislature for funding once it is agreed to. (Sarah Palin’s new BFF Jane Swift neglected to do this for a couple of years as well.) When Patrick came into office he offered one-year contracts rather than the usual three, to allow his administration to establish itself. For the first time in over a decade, we had a new contract in place before the old one expired. It appeared that our work on behalf of Patrick had paid off in a smoother bargaining process.
As I said, however, we are only now getting the economic parameter for the potential 2008-11 contract. They have not yet shown up at the bargaining table, but they are 2% or 2.5% raises to be paid on Jan 2009, Jan 2010, and Jan 2011. (The staff union get “step raises” not included in their 2%, the faculty and professional staff get 2.5% and no steps.) The amount of these is “in line with history” (a Republican history), but does amount to a significant pay cut after inflation, currently at 5.5% per year. This is going to be a significant problem for recruiting and retaining top-flight faculty here, among other things. There is also no professional development money and no increase in the amount paid to our health and welfare fund.
But notice something else. The period from July through December 2008 has no raise at all, only because the administration stalled through that period. (We got the parameters now only after literally filing an unfair labor practice claim.) They are asking us to pay for their delays. In fact, they say that if the contract is not settled by 1 January 2009, they will delay the raise scheduled for that date with no retroactive pay once the contract is settled.
As the union leadership says, “the threat of no retroactivity — accompanied by extremely late parameters and taking cynical advantage of a holiday season deadline — is clearly aimed at undermining and short-circuiting the bargaining process. They threat comes despite an explicit promise made to union leaders by Deval Patrick’s Chief of Staff Doug Rubin that his administration would never resort to this. Simply put, we were lied to.”
Until the November election our main political priority is the defeat of Question 1, a matter where we are allied with the Governor (along with most other elected officials in the state). But if you’re wondering why someone in the hard-core Democratic base is about to cover over his Patrick sticker, I hope you now know.