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Fresno State members of the California Faculty Association sign in at the Bucket to celebrate the tentative agreement of CSU faculty pay, calling for a 10.5 percent raise, over the course of three years, Friday, April 8, 2016. The tentative agreement averted the five-day strike planned for April. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Tentative agreement stalls strike

California State University (CSU) and the California Faculty Association (CFA) announced a tentative agreement, which ended all plans for a faculty strike.

“The agreement has 10.5 percent increase in general salary increases for faculty over the three-year agreement and also provides an additional 2.65 percent for faculty who are eligible in year three of the agreement — eligible for the SSI (supplemental security income) years of service salary increase,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said.

White said the 5 percent general salary increase would be implemented at the end of this budget year on June 30, 2016; the 2 percent increase would be implemented at the beginning of the next budget year on July 1, 2016; and the 3.5 percent increase would be implemented on July 1, 2017. The three-year agreement would continue until June 30, 2018.

The 2.65 percent SSI would be administered in the third year of the agreement and would be distributed throughout the year to the eligible faculty based on the anniversary of their hiring date White said.

The agreement also doubles the vesting time to retiree health benefits from five to 10 years for new faculty hired in fall of 2017.

White said, another aspect of the agreement is when a faculty member is promoted from assistant professor to associate professor or associate to full professor the minimum salary increase will be raised from 7.5 percent to 9 percent, White said.

White said he was delighted to announce the tentative agreement and he would be commending the agreement to the CSU Board of Trustees for ratification.

The agreement would be great for students because it meant that there would be no strikes at any CSU campuses, White said.

“It’s also great for students because as we invest in faculty, we invest in students’ learning environments and their success,” White said. “Also, by investing in faculty, it allows us at the academic department level to hire, to recruit and retain the very best faculty members.”

White commended both the CFA and CSU bargaining teams for their tireless efforts to achieve a positive result.

White said the CSU would continue to work with the legislature and governor for additional and increased support over the years.

“The CSU is worth of a robust public investment from the state, and we must be worthy stewards of this university,” White said. “We must stand together for our students. We must stand together for our faculty. We must stand together for our staff and quite frankly, we must stand together for California’s future. Only together, will we create lasting success.”

CFA President Jennifer Eagan said the faculty stood up in the time of a crisis and presented a strong and compelling case to the public and to the fact-finder.

“Most of us are not radicals, and all this militant activity is not what we really want to be doing,” Eagan said. “It was truly a reflection of the economic crisis that our membership is experiencing and their incentives that CFA fight back on their behalf in ways that show we recognize that they and their families were going through.”

Eagan said the agreement will not end all of the faculty’s problems, but that it would alter the coarse relationship with the chancellor and send a message that the CFA and CSU can function as a team.

“For the first time that any of us can remember, our chancellor and our board has declared that they truly value the faculty along with the students, and that the faculty — along with enrollment facilities and the other major areas of the university’s financial consideration — merit priority,” Eagan said.

Negotiations changed when the chancellor got involved and the faculty respect his leadership, Eagan said.

“Now is the time when the faculty can stand down from out confrontations and commit to working with the CSU administration in a new spirit of cooperation to build a new CSU for our students and for California,” Eagan said.

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro said he was pleased about the agreement and that the university could continue to focus on student success, because the distraction a strike could have brought had been averted.

Castro said he was happy for everyone involved, but especially the students because they would have been most impacted by the strike.

“If we had had a strike, my goal was to make it go as smoothly as possible, and that would have been a challenge,” Castro said. “I didn’t want any harm done to the students and I know that the CFA didn’t want any harm done either, so I’m glad that we don’t have to do that.”

Both the CFA and the administrators are happy and feel good about the agreement because it works, Castro said.

“It’s a compromise, and I think it’s one that’s fair to our faculty and our staff,” Castro said. “It also is doable financially, and that was the key to an agreement.”

Castro said he doesn’t foresee any cutbacks, but thinks that there will be an adjustment in priorities for the upcoming year because university will invest more than anticipated in salaries and benefits.

“My hope is that the legislature and governor will invest more and we won’t even have to make those difficult kinds of decisions,” Castro said. “In the short term, it will mean that we put in at least $2 million more than we had anticipated into salaries and benefits.”

As president, Castro said he had to think more about the greater good of students, faculty and staff and working together to support students and their success.

Diane Blair, president of the Fresno State chapter of the CFA said that she was relieved and very happy that classes would be in session and faculty members would not be on the picket line next week.

“Faculty have really been disinvested in over the last decade,” Blair said. “Initially the chancellor was only offering a 2 percent increase for this year, and faculty felt like that was insufficient.”

The agreement provided fair compensation for the faculty and would provide a sense of financial security for them, Blair said.

Blair said most of the faculty she had talked to seemed really pleased with the agreement, and she was proud of the faculty and the union for standing up and working together.

With this agreement, Blair said she hopes the relationship with the CSU would become better, and that the agreement was a turning point and a signal that the chancellor was ready to reinvest in faculty.

Associated Students, Inc. president Abigail Hudson said she thinks students will be excited that there will be less disruption in their classes, though she admits there may be some confusion in tests or assignments that had been postponed because of the strike.

“It will be better that faculty know at this point, so that they have a whole week to inform their students about how they can change their syllabus back to a no-strike syllabus,” Hudson said.

Hudson said some students may be disappointed that they don’t have as much time to study for tests, but that overall, students were happy that they will be able to get on campus with no problems.

“Especially for seniors like myself,” Hudson said. “A lot of us are just kind of relieved that there are no interruptions in our time before graduation.”

Students felt like they had to pick sides and they didn’t know what they were suppose to do, Hudson said.

“I feel like this kind of takes students out of the middle and makes everyone get along, so that the students can refocus on their education,” Hudson said.

White said the dispute ultimately is an unfortunate symptom of a core problem in California.

“That is the fact that that California State University — and for that matter the University of California — are underfunded relative to the state’s needs for an educated populace,” White said.