HIGHLIGHTS OF TENTATIVE AGREEMENT COLUMBIA POSTDOCTORAL WORKERS-UAW
The bargaining committee recommends voting YES to ratification. This agreement includes historic compensation improvements and establishes important new workplace rights for all Postdoc and Associate Researchers. We believe the agreement will not only improve our lives as researchers, but can also help make Columbia a more equitable, inclusive, and competitive research institution.
Key highlights of the agreement include:
- Historic increases to minimum salaries: $60,000 for Postdocs and $66,100 for Associate Researchers, making Columbia Postdoc minimums the highest in NYC
- Full compensation parity for Postdoctoral Research Fellows ($60,000 per year), as well as Fellow access to childcare benefits
- Ratification lump sum bonus for researchers near or above the new minimums already (approximately 1.5% to 3%, respectively)
- Contractually guaranteed anniversary increases of at least 2.5% in the 2nd and 3rd year of the agreement.
- Stronger protections against discrimination and harassment, including the right to appeal University decision to a neutral arbitrator
- Unprecedented University commitment work with us to develop policies and procedures to address bullying
- New protections against symptoms of bullying including grievable rights to a fair workload and to take time off
- Access to an additional 6 weeks of fully-paid parental leave for both birth and non-birth parents, available after one year of service
- New rights for international researchers, including various accommodations for visa and immigration-related issues
- A strong grievance procedure to enforce our rights under the contract. For the first time we have a formal mechanism with teeth to enforce our rights.
See below for a complete summary. You may click hyperlinks to read full language for each topic and can read the entire tentative agreement here.
Compensation and other Benefits
Side Letter on Abusive or Intimidating Behavior
Copyright and Intellectual Property
14.5% to 20% increase to minimum salaries/stipends—historic increases to minimum salaries for Postdocs, including Fellows, to $60,000, and $66,100 for Associate Researchers, effective July 1, 2020. For researchers near or already above the new minimums, the University shall establish a bonus fund that would provide lump sum payments -worth 1.5% to 3% of salary, respectively, within 60 days of ratification. This article also establishes contractually-guaranteed salary increases of at least 2.5% based on anniversary or reappointment date during 2021-22 and 2022-23. Postdoctoral Research Fellows will now be guaranteed the same minimum annual compensation as Postdoctoral Research Scientists/Scholars.
Leaves of Absence
This article codifies and expands on existing access to paid leaves of absence, including medical leave, parental leave, and bereavement leave. After one year of employment, researchers will now have access to six (6) weeks of fully-paid parental leave unless explicitly restricted by an external funding agency, in addition to 6-8 weeks of paid child birth leave. Researchers will also now have the right to reasonable requests for longer bereavement leave when, for example, a leave may involve international travel.
Postdoctoral Research Fellows will now have access to a benefit comparable to the $4,000 benefit enjoyed by other Officers of Research.
This article ensures that Postdoc and Associate Researchers continue to receive health and other benefits on the same basis as all Officers of Research and prevent changes to benefits unless the University is changing benefits for all similarly-situated employees at Columbia, such as other Officers of Research, Officers of Administration, etc.
Researchers shall earn 2 days per month of paid vacation, up to 23 days (28 days after 20 years of service), which must be used by June 30 of the year following the year in which it was earned; unused vacation days can be paid out upon termination of appointment.
Researchers shall be entitled to 14 paid holidays per year, including 2 (Medical Center) or 3 (Morningside) personal days; ensures right to use personal days for religious purposes; establishes right to alternate day off if project requires researcher to work on a holiday.
The University shall provide travel advances, direct travel funding, or timely reimbursement of expenses for required travel; researchers shall also continue to be covered by Travel Accident Insurance.
Training and Orientation
The University shall pay associated fees and provide paid time for employees to attend required or supervisor-approved, work-related trainings, orientations, workshops and courses.
Grievance and Arbitration
This article establishes a timely and fair process for resolving alleged violations of our contract, which gives us equal footing to enforce the terms we negotiate. While the contract encourages informal resolution of disputes, researchers and the Union also have the right to take an unresolved dispute to a neutral arbitrator if a dispute cannot be resolved at earlier steps of the process.
This article would establish new rights for researchers to address discrimination and harassment, including the right to take an unresolved complaint to a neutral arbitrator if dissatisfied with the University’s decision on the matter. The University Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office, which handles investigations of alleged discrimination and harassment, would now advise researchers of their right to union representation during any investigative process, codifies the University to determining and implementing appropriate interim measures to protect a researcher during investigations, and commits the University and Union to meet and make good-faith efforts to resolve complaints. This article also includes a contractual commitment by the University to making best efforts to process and resolve complaints in a timely manner. For cases involving Title IX, the Union could appeal to neutral arbitration after the completion of the EOAA process; for cases not involving Title IX, the Union could appeal after 75 days even if the EOAA process is not complete. Disputes as to whether Title IX applies would be resolved by a mutually-agreed upon neutral.
Side Letter on Abusive or Intimidating Behavior
The University has made a historic commitment to “ensuring a workplace free from abusive or intimidating behavior,” commonly known as bullying Within six months of ratification, the University will form a working group, which would include CPW-UAW, to develop recommendations to the University for addressing complaints of such behavior. This letter also prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports such behavior.
Ensures that appointments are normally one year to Associate Research Scientist/Scholar, Postdoctoral Research Scientist/Scholar, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow positions as defined in the current Faculty Handbook; ensures that all researchers receive written appointment notice including basic information about the position, including summary of anticipated duties, URL for benefits information and URL for the Union contract; and commits university to make best efforts to process paperwork in order to avoid delayed pay.
Discipline and Discharge
Improves researchers’ security by establishing “just cause” protections against arbitrary discipline or termination. With “just cause” protections, the University would have to establish good cause for a researcher to be fired or disciplined.
This article would establish new rights for international researchers: the right to reasonable paid time off to attend immigration-related proceedings; the University will make reasonable efforts to allow a researcher to work remotely if unable to return to the US for reasons outside their control; the University will hold a position open for at least 60 days in cases where the researcher has been unable to obtain work authorization; the University will make best efforts to work with the Union to help a researcher who has proper visa and work authorization documentation but has been barred entry to the US.
Ensures that the university will continue following current policy regarding posting of available positions for Postdoctoral and Associate Researchers encouraging transparency and equal opportunity for candidates.
Establishes researchers’ right to access, copy, and add comments to employment files maintained by the University.
Health and Safety
Codifies in our contract the University’s legal obligations regarding health and safety, thereby improving researchers’ ability to protect ourselves from working in unsafe or hazardous conditions including: the right to grieve health and safety problems; the right to relevant health and safety training; provision of proper equipment; protections from being assigned work that poses an immediate danger; provision of proper equipment; protection against retaliation for raising health and safety concerns; and the establishment of a joint Union-University health and safety committee.
Establishes protections against arbitrary, unreasonable work schedules as professional, salaried employees; while our workweek is normally at least 40 hours, schedules must be ”reasonable and related to the research needs” and should allow for weeks less than 40 hours.
Workspace and Materials
Commits the University to provide workspace, facilities, equipment, materials and access to the internet and other network resources necessary to perform assigned duties; also ensures “timely reimbursement” for any employee approved to purchase required materials, equipment or services.
The University will maintain support for training and professional development programs. In furtherance of professional development and career goals, researchers will have the right to work with their PI/mentor to develop and discuss an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and the right to receive at least one written performance evaluation within each 12-month period.
Intellectual Property and Copyright
Clarifies that Postdoc and Associate Researchers have rights under the University IP and Copyright policies. Establishes grievable protections against retaliation for pursuing or participating in complaints. Joint Union-Management Committee may explore possible procedures to address authorship disputes.
Clarifies that Postdoc and Associate Researchers have rights under the Research Integrity policy. Establishes grievable protections against retaliation for pursuing or participating in complaints.
Codifies recognition of the Union and describes the unit represented by the Union, consistent with our National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case in 2018; commits the University to continue discussing how the parties can engage in collective bargaining over terms and conditions of employment for individuals who receive no salary or stipend remuneration from the University.
Ensures that if any provision of the contract is found to be unlawful, the rest of the contract remains in effect and the parties will negotiate with respect to the provision found to be unlawful.
Union Access, Rights and Activity
This article would help us have a strong union: ensures that Columbia provide our Union with basic information about employees in the bargaining unit; provides Union time and space to orient new employees about their rights under the contract and membership in our Union; provides reasonable time for Postdoc and Associate Researcher union representatives to handle grievances; and provides reasonable time to attend Union meetings.
This article helps ensure that the Union has sufficient resources to engage in effective representation. Researchers would have an obligation to become a Union member and pay dues or pay a fee to share the cost of representation. Dues provide the resources for helping the Union handle grievances and to engage in other types of advocacy.
Joint Union-Management Committee
Establishes a joint committee to meet at least twice per year to discuss matters affecting Postdocs that are not related to any active grievances.
No Strikes/No Lockout
During the life of the contract, the Union and University agree they will resolve disputes under the contract through the process in the contract. To that end, the union agrees that it will not encourage or sanction a strike and the University agrees it will not lock out employees while the contract is in effect.
This a standard article in union contracts reiterating the University’s right to manage the institution so long as their actions do not violate provisions of our agreement.
Effective Date and Duration
This article would establish a contract duration of three years, expiring June 30, 2023.