An alleged breach of the lecturers’ union contract by the University has pushed the two parties to seek arbitration to settle a dispute over pay raises.
The Lecturers’ Employees Organization is accusing the University of using “creative accounting” to move money from one “fund” to another in order to avoid larger pay raises for lecturers. The organization contends these moves meant the difference between a 4.1 percent and a 2 percent salary increase for University lecturers this year.
The four funding accounts in question from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts are the “A Fund,” “B Fund,” “C Fund” and “Super C Fund.” Though not defined explicitly, these funds serve different purposes, but together cover all parts of faculty salaries in LSA.
According to documents obtained by LEO through a Freedom of Information Act request, the “A Fund” is the average faculty salary program in LSA and is available to academic units to distribute to faculty. The documents, which are signed by Jeff Frumkin, associate provost and senior director for academic human resources, state “Virtually all faculty members are eligible to receive an increase from the ‘A Fund.’” In recent years, the “A Fund” has fallen from 62.6 percent of LSA’s entire compensation for the year in 2005 to 38.1 percent in 2009.
The “B Fund” is used specifically for promotion and retention, for example, when a faculty member becomes an associate professor or professor. Over the last five years, the “B Fund” has held steady at around 20 percent of LSA’s entire compensation for the year.
The controversy lies with the “C Fund” and “D Fund” — or as it’s called the “Super C Fund.”
According to the LEO documents obtained through FOIA, the “C Fund is used to recognize faculty members’ special achievements (e.g. in service, scholarship, instruction) and may also be used to address structural inequities in the salary program.” All monies awarded from the “C Fund” are recommended by a department and approved by the dean. Since 2005, the percentage of this fund relative to the entire compensation for the year has varied widely, standing at about 34 percent of the total compensation in 2007 and then dropping to 11 percent of the total compensation the following year. In 2008, the “C Fund” comprised about 20 percent of the total compensation for the year.
The “Super C Fund” isn’t used by the college or dean’s office to fund the faculty salary program, according to the FOIA documents. Instead, it is used by the dean’s office to “account for relatively small corrections to faculty salary anomalies,” the documents state. The example given in the documents is when LSA must average two different salary rates for a single faculty member.
The documents state that in certain years, like 2008 and 2009, LSA specifically used a portion of the “C Fund” for “strategically targeted purposes.” One example is when LSA improved gender pay gaps in the college. After only comprising 0.3 percent of the college’s entire compensation for 2005 and 2.8 percent for 2007, the value of the “Super C Fund” shot up to 30.4 percent of LSA’s total compensation in 2008 and 20.6 percent in 2009. Awards from the “Super C Fund” are also recommended by the department and must be approved by the dean.
American Culture and History Lecturer Catherine Daligga, co-chair of LEO, said in an interview yesterday that LEO determined University officials were switching money from the “A Fund,” where money for salary increases is usually housed, to the “C Fund,” which University officials say they use for retention, promotion and equity. The categories of retention, promotion and equity are excepted from consideration in pay raises for lecturers according to the union’s contract with the University.
Because the University moved money to the “C Fund” and “Super C Fund,” lecturers’ salaries increased by 2 percent, instead of by 4.1 percent, Daligga and LEO contend.
Frumkin described the contention between the two parties differently.
The University’s position, Frumkin said in an interview yesterday, is that officials admittedly did not take into account the “C Fund” because money in that fund falls under three categories that are exempt from consideration according to the LEO contract.
Thus despite LEO’s objections, he said, University officials are abiding by the contract they agreed upon with LEO.
As stipulated in the labor agreement, which expires in 2010, the University must increase lecturers’ pay at the same rate it raises pay for professors, or tenure-track faculty.
“All Employee full-time salary rates shall increase by the average annual percent increase, excluding retention, promotion, and equity increases, for tenured and tenure-track faculty of the respective arts and sciences college at each campus,” the agreement reads.
Therefore if the University were taking money that should be considered in pay raises, and putting it into an exempt fund, as LEO suggests, they would be breaching their contract with the union.
Daligga said LEO officials discovered what they contend is a discrepancy in the funds in a Freedom of Information Act request, which they submitted in August.
“We found out that they were in fact making use of some creative accounting systems, using a variety of funds that had been established, using them in a different way than they had been explained to us,” she said. “The A Fund balances started to dwindle and the money in the C and Super C (another of the four fund pools) fund were growing.”
Following their finding in the FOIA request, Daligga said LEO filed a grievance claiming the University breached the contract.
On Wednesday, LEO members and University officials were scheduled to meet in hopes of settling the dispute, but the meeting was cancelled after University officials determined that a settlement would not be the best way to resolve the conflict, Frumkin said.
LEO officials filed the demand for arbitration on Wednesday.
Though Frumkin reiterated several times the high variability in the schedules of arbitration hearings, he said he hoped the hearing would be held in late May or early June, adding that neither side has any interest in “having this linger.” He also said a decision by the arbiter is usually made within 30 days of the hearing.
Frumkin said LEO scheduled a teach-in for Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, which University officials said would be a violation of the union’s contract.
LEO officials told Frumkin they would suspend the teach-in if University officials would agree to talk about a possible settlement.
Frumkin said that while a settlement was discussed in advance of Wednesday’s scheduled meeting, University officials decided that the settlement would not be the best way to solve the dispute. He said he communicated his decision to LEO officials Wednesday morning.
“This is not something that happens often. In fact, to the best of my knowledge it is the first time in the 11 years I’ve been here that I have cancelled a meeting and said that we’re not going to go forward with the agenda we had planned,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, I wish that it hadn’t played out the way that it played out, but it did.”
Yesterday LEO staged a rally on Regents’ Plaza featuring speakers from student groups Stop the Hike and Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality to call attention to the union’s demands.
Surrounded by about 40 lecturers and students, Marc Ammerlaan, co-chair of LEO and a Biology lecturer, lamented the University’s handling of the situation.
“The University writes one set of words on paper, and goes in some windowless office and makes up a different set of rules,” he said. “If it’s a good year, we’ll take good pay; if it’s a bad year, we’ll take low raises, but we don’t want to see the scales tipping based on who the administration favors.”
— David Taylor contributed to this report.