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Librarian Bargaining Update #1 2012

On Thursday, April 19th and 20th, the UC-AFT Librarian Negotiating Team met with the UC Administration’s team for face-to-face bargaining at the Office of the President in Oakland. Although the entire contract is open for revisions, neither party opened every article for discussion.  The two parties agreed that our opening proposals would not be in the form of final contract language, but rather as conceptual discussions of our concerns about each of the articles we opened for bargaining. The hope is that neither party will too quickly get locked into final language and that we can work together to solve the concerns of both parties. The tone of bargaining was positive and cordial.

Members of our Librarian Negotiating Team include:  Mitchell Brown, UCI, Harrison Decker, UCB; Ken Lyons, UCSC; Lise Snyder, UCLA, Axel Borg, UCD (and Deputy Chief Negotiator), Miki Goral, Chief Negotiator Emerita; Maria Elena Cortez, Executive Director for the UC-AFT, and  Mike Rotkin, Chief Negotiator.  

UC-AFT Opening Proposals

UC Opening Proposals

 UC Administration Issues:

If you review the University Administration’s opener, you will see that they have only fairly modest proposals for change. Our biggest concern in their proposals is an attempt to more strictly limit the authority of arbitrators to decide if the Contract was violated when the decisions in question involve what the University calls “academic judgment.” We have already conceded that in certain academic judgments, such as whether or not a person deserves a merit increase, an arbitrator cannot substitute his or her judgment for that of the University decision-makers. But they can overturn decisions based on violations of agreed upon procedures, i.e. the process being violated. However, it appears that the Administration may be attempting to unreasonably limit the authority of arbitrators in other situations. If so, we will, of course, resist such attempts when it is clear that it is not academic judgment, but financial or other issues that are determining outcomes.

Other than that, most of the Administration concerns appear to be related to making the grievance/arbitration process more efficient without significantly reducing the ability of the process to serve the needs of librarians who have had their rights under the Contract violated. No doubt there is some room for improvement here upon which the two parties could agree.

 Librarian Concerns:

The Union focused most of its energy on the issue of compensation. We presented (thanks to Ken Lyons at UCSC) new salary charts demonstrating that UC librarian compensation remains far below that of CSU librarians doing comparable work. We believe that we are still roughly 19% below CSU librarian compensation at UC and we know that we still lag behind comparable pay with community college librarians.

Although we want to be careful not to overstate the other team’s enthusiasm for the issue, we did get formal commitment at the table for the two parties to work together on fixing our salary scale. Both parties agree that the bottom end of the scale is particularly low in comparison to that at sister institutions of higher learning in California. But we also made it clear that we cannot get our members to ratify a contract that doesn’t have some improvement in compensation for people at the middle and upper-end of the scale as well. We got a commitment that we will be looking at addressing the negative impact of the “barrier step” associated with “distinguished librarian” status on promotions for long-term librarians on some campuses. And we want to be careful not to make anything worse on campuses where this has not been a problem.

The University Administration team is already working on some possible revisions to the structure of the salary scale for librarians at UC.  Both parties understand that it will not be easy to resolve all of our issues given the current State budget crisis and problems with UC funding and priorities, so we do anticipate the possibility of agreeing to a multi-year contract so the cost of bringing UC compensation up to market levels can be spread out over time.

We also spent considerable time explaining the Union’s other concerns that we hope to resolve in bargaining. Thanks to a study done by Harrison Decker at UC Berkeley, we were able to demonstrate that the low salaries in UC libraries have resulted in serious problems with recruitment and retention. Roughly 30% of the librarians hired during the last 11 years are no longer with UC. Since most of the librarians hired during this period would be too young to retire, it appears that many librarians that UC hires are leaving relatively quickly for jobs elsewhere and that is surprising given the poor labor market during most of this 11-year period. The waste involved in providing extensive and expensive training to employees who then leave for jobs elsewhere is a serious problem.

As a result of several factors, including cuts to library budgets and retention and recruitment problems, several other problems have resulted in most of the UC libraries. Workload issues for the remaining librarians, who now often do what had been the work of two or more librarians in the past, are growing. We are facing an increased demand to move librarians out of Unit 17 and into management positions where they are offered stipends and often more professional development support in order to retain them at UC. Increasingly, library assistants and students are being used to fill in for the now absent professional librarians, but often in positions or with assignments that should be limited to librarians with professional training and experience. The result is a noticeable decline in the quality of library services to students, faculty, and other patrons. Reorganizations on several campuses are resulting in what appear to be fairly arbitrary reassignments and a failure to appreciate the professional nature of librarian work.

With workload increases, there are also more problems with the review process for Unit 17 librarians. These are often contradictory. In some cases, librarians are restricted from focusing their energy into the professional development areas of their work and are forced to struggle just to keep up with the daily work assignments. In other cases, unreasonable expectations of how much professional development work a person can do when her or his daily assignments are becoming overwhelming. In bargaining any new arrangements or in clarifying the existing ones, we intend to base our solutions on the professional nature of librarian work for those in Unit 17, and the importance of the librarians themselves deciding, within the framework of general management directions and available resources, how to balance the various aspects of their work.

We also raised interest in expanding flexible work arrangements, especially during school closures, and are going to work to clarify the reimbursement policy for classes related to library work. We were able to already come to tentative agreement to remove an article in the current Contract that provides for legal indemnity (University legal defense) for librarians sued while carrying out their legal job responsibilities. This indemnity is already required by State law and is redundant in our Contract.

So our next effort will be for each of the two parties to come back to the table with more concrete proposals and actual proposed contract language and concrete pay scales to address its concerns. Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Oakland on Friday, May 18. We will also be scheduling a conference call for the larger Librarian Bargaining Committee (up to two librarians from each campus) before that next session to make sure our work at the bargaining table reflects the concerns of our librarians on every UC campus.

Mike Rotkin

Unit 17 Chief Negotiator

UC-AFT V.P. for Organizing