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After meeting again with the Columbia administration team last week, we have another brief update on COVID-19 issues, as well as our continued negotiations for our first contract. Our last bargaining session is summarized below.

COVID-19-related updates.

We had further discussion with the administration regarding the effects of COVID-19 on Postdoc and Associate Researchers. Since a number of researchers had raised concerns regarding recent Columbia communications regarding potential redeployment plans, we requested clarification on that topic.  

Columbia told us that, due in large part to the substantial numbers of volunteers, they did not envision a need for or have any plans to redeploy Postdoc and Associate Researchers. In response to concerns about health and safety of those who do volunteer, the University reiterated that they are working hard with the hospital to ensure that everyone has the necessary training and personal protective equipment. Related to some of our other questions, the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) urged all international researchers to contact their office for guidance on visa rules regarding volunteering. During the course of our conversation at the bargaining table, administrators on the University team expressed great gratitude for the number of volunteers who have been stepping up in recent weeks.

While we had a productive discussion of these issues, we want to remind all researchers to contact us immediately if you have any concerns related to the current COVID-19 crisis.

Latest bargaining update. We definitely felt we achieved a little momentum in our negotiations last week, which we hope to build on as we continue to work through what continue to be a number of significant differences on some of our core priority proposals.  

Most importantly, we finally started to make some new progress on some of the proposals that will help us establish and maintain a strong union beyond these contract negotiations. In particular, we made progress on Grievance and Arbitration and on Union Access and Rights. The Grievance and Arbitration article is one of the more important provisions in our negotiations since it lays out the process to enforce our rights under the contract, including access to a neutral arbitrator if necessary. Our Union Access and Rights article is important because it is one of the articles that can help ensure that the Union has relevant information and access to new employees, as well as resources, necessary for a strong and representative union. However, while the University made the most responsive proposals so far on these topics, they continue to propose certain unusual provisions that would place limitations on our ability to enforce our rights and represent ourselves that do not exist for the other unions at Columbia. We hope to make more progress on these topics this week.

We also had somewhat productive discussions on Professional Development. The University finally gave us a counterproposal on this topic and we moved closer to agreement on an article committing the University to maintain support for professional development programs, as well as establishing the right of researchers to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with feedback from their supervisor and to receive at least one written performance review each year.  

We have bargaining sessions scheduled on Thursday and Friday this week and will keep you posted on our progress.


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee