Professors plan spring rally in response to stalled contract negotiations

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By Joshua Rosario | Published March 4, 2017

Full-time professors at Kean University have been working without a master contract for over a year and a half. Negotiations towards a contract have been ongoing for almost two years. The current contract expired on June 30, 2015.

“We are planning for a series of actions statewide during the course of the spring semester,” said Dr. James Castiglione, President of the Kean Federation of Teachers, in an interview with The Tower. “Things have yet to be finalized but there will be a day of action.”

There are plans to rally on public university campuses statewide to raise awareness among students and the community about the lack of a contract. Faculty and staff believe working without a contract negatively affects students’ education. Castiglione believes it also negatively impacts the recruitment of talented teachers and staff members. Also, it makes retention of those teachers and staff members difficult.

“People have not had a raise in two years,” said Castiglione. “ And further, faculty and staff have seen their out-of-pocket healthcare costs go up. The amount that gets deducted out of our paychecks is increasing.”

In New Jersey public university master-contract negotiations, The Council of New Jersey State College Local, is the collective-bargaining agent that represents professors from not only Kean University, but also others, including Montclair State University and The College of New Jersey. The Office of Employee Relations in the New Jersey Governor’s office coordinates and negotiates on behalf of the state. The last negotiation meeting between the two was on February 10, 2017. No agreement was reached.

Contract demands include bringing health care costs under control and moving to a system that is fair. They are also seeking an annual cost-of-living increase of five percent in the first year, four percent in the second and third year, and three percent in the fourth year.

The state has countered with a zero percent increase in the first two years and one percent in the third and fourth years. Castiglione said that in the last negotiation meeting on February 10, the state was willing to go to 1.25 percent in the third and fourth year. In the previous contract, the raises were zero percent the first two years, one percent in the third, and 1.75 percent in the last year.

The master contract doesn’t affect adjunct professors, but adjunct professors are unionized and are also currently undergoing contract negotiations. The Council is proposing lecturers be added to the master contract. Lecturers have a yearly contract. Currently, lecturers negotiate locally with the university.

“The terms and conditions for our lecturers right now are not very good and need to improve,” said Castiglione. “And that is leading to high turnover among lecturers, who, again, teach a lot of classes and interact with students on a very regular basis.”

The master contract includes teaching and/or research faculty, department chairpersons, administrative staff (non-managerial), librarians, student personnel staff, demonstration teachers, and professional academic support personnel (holding faculty rank), among others.

When asked for a comment on the ongoing negotiations, Kean University’s Director of Media Relations, Margaret McCorry said the university would not comment.

“The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations handles the negotiations,” said McCorry.

The Governor’s office did not respond to a request through its website.

The Council’s next meeting for negotiations will take place on March 10.

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