In bargaining Wednesday, we got the first serious indication that Columbia may be starting to listen to us. We reached one more important tentative agreement (Discharge and Discipline, summarized below), and the administration team finally gave us their first economic proposals. While these new proposals fall short in a variety of ways, we believe they represent a significant new starting point from which we can finish negotiations by April 6. But we also know that, in order to ensure that the administration puts in the necessary work to do so, researchers will need to continue standing up and taking actions to communicate our priorities for a stronger, more inclusive research community here at Columbia.
The University provided new proposals on Compensation and Leaves of Absence. On Compensation, the University proposed increases of 12.3% to 13.9% to minimum rates over the next two years, as well as guaranteed annual raises of 2% to 2.5% for those at or above minimum rates. As part of this proposal, Postdoctoral Research Fellows would move closer to parity with Postdoctoral Research Scientists/Scholars but still be compensated at a lower level. On Leaves of Absence, the University made a new proposal for four weeks of fully-paid paid parental leave for researchers who have worked at Columbia for at least one full year.
While we recognize that the University made significant movement in our direction with these economic proposals, they still fall short in a number of ways. First, the increases to minimum salaries do not make up for the fact that our salaries at Columbia have lagged far behind peer institutions in New York City for at least the last couple years. Second, under Columbia’s current proposal, Fellows would still be monetarily penalized for winning an award that brings prestige and money to Columbia. Third, Columbia has totally rejected our proposal to factor years of experience into pay rates—a concept that is common for other Columbia employees and for the NIH recommended minimum salaries. Fourth, we still have concerns about the length of paid parental leave and the 1 year eligibility period for it. Finally, Columbia did not make counter proposals on a number of our other economic proposals, like child care and professional development. We expect to have much more discussion of all of these concerns in upcoming sessions.
Tentative agreement on Discharge and Discipline. This article improves job security by establishing “just cause” protections against arbitrary discipline or termination, which means the University would need to establish good cause for a researcher to be fired or disciplined. The article also establishes new rights for international researchers by committing the University to make best efforts to expedite due process in cases where termination could jeopardize visa status.
The CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee