In our latest bargaining session Thursday, we spent most of our time discussing Columbia’s resistance to including protections against bullying in our contract. We also passed updated proposals on Recognition, Non-Discrimination and Grievance and Arbitration and the university’s team gave updated proposals on Leaves and Employment Files.
Bullying: CU says bullying protections would restrict P.I.s’ ability to mentor good researchers
The discussion regarding bullying was particularly frustrating. Even though members of their own bargaining team — as well as a growing number of observers of academic science, including Nature magazine — acknowledge bullying as a problem, Columbia so far is refusing to put language in our contract establishing protections against such destructive behavior. While we believe our proposed protections against “Power-Based Harassment” would enhance our ability to engage in quality research, the University team actually said on Thursday that such protections would put unreasonable restrictions on a PI’s ability to effectively mentor Postdocs and Associate Researchers and would thus undermine research.
The university team claimed that it would be impossible to clearly define bullying in the contract and that the lack of clarity would lead PIs to refrain from mentoring out of fear that PARs would abuse our ability to construe interactions with our PIs as “bullying.” While we would be happy to consider alternative definitions from the University, we find their outright rejection of our proposal thus far totally unacceptable — citing unsubstantiated and unreasonable claims that our proposal would hinder or inconvenience supervisors is not a legitimate reason to reject protections against the widely acknowledged problem of bullying in the academic workplace.
Continuing to move forward on other Proposals:
In other activity in our session, we passed an updated proposal on Recognition, attempting to clarify our mutual understanding that the small number of individuals who do research at Columbia, but who are in fact fully compensated and receive benefits from another employer (e.g. Howard Hughes Medical Institute) would not be part of our bargaining unit.
In response to concerns raised by the University, we also modified our Grievance and Arbitration article to define a grievance as a violation of the contract or other adverse action against any postdoc or Associate Research Scientist (PAR).
The university’s team gave us a few counter proposals as well, including updated versions of Employment Files and Leaves. While we believe we have moved closer to agreement on Employment Files, we have a long way to go to on paid leaves of absence. While they have agreed to outline the existing policies in the contract, which would make them clearer and more enforceable, Columbia’s team continues to refuse to offer any material improvement to critical aspects of leave. For example, they refuse to agree to improved paid parental leave, which remains one of the large institutional barriers to women and parents’ ability to advance in academia.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee