Recent Postdoc and Associate Researcher actions appear to have had some positive effect on Columbia’s approach to our negotiations and desire to reach an agreement in the near future, as well as their responses to more immediate concerns on COVID-19. However, yesterday’s session also made it clear that we will need to demonstrate our priorities even more strongly if we want to achieve the kind of fair agreement we deserve on an acceptable timeline – especially when it comes to stronger protections against discrimination and harassment. See our latest bargaining update below.

The recent positive shift in Columbia’s position is certainly thanks to the many Postdoc and Associate Researchers who have taken action to elevate our collective voice over the past several weeks. Hundreds of us have signed an open letter to the Provost demanding a fair contract, participated in our whiteboard campaign, and urged Congress to support science and research funding as we continue through and transition out of the COVID-19 crisis. There is power in numbers, so please let us know if you can join us in other actions moving forward!  

Bargaining Update May 18, 2020

First, after repeated recent discussions regarding researchers’ health and safety rights during the pending ramp-up, the University informed us that they will be announcing a COVID-19 “research ambassadors” program so that concerned individuals may raise complaints without fear of retaliation. The administration team said the details of this program would be announced this week.

The administration team also finally responded – partially – to our recent presentation of three major package proposals intended to establish a pathway to a fair agreement. Columbia restored most of its pre-COVID-19 compensation proposal on the condition that we reach an agreement by June 30, and made another move in our direction on paid parental leave. However, they made only minimal movement on stronger, more timely protections against discrimination, harassment and bullying, and did not change their proposals on other important outstanding issues. While overall these changes are in the right direction, we know Columbia can do better.

We remain committed to achieving a fair contract that provides competitive compensation for Postdocs and Associate Researchers, enables us to engage in effective representation of our rights in the workplace, and strengthens equity and inclusion in our research community. Below is the latest status of our package proposals.

Package 1 – The major remaining dispute in this package is paid parental leave. We have proposed eights weeks of fully-paid leave for new parents, available upon appointment and contract ratification, whereas Columbia has now offered five weeks, available after one year of employment and starting on January 1, 2021.

Package 2 – This package (Non-Discrimination, Grievance and Arbitration, Union Rights, Union Security, Management Rights, and No Strikes/No Lockouts. Our Non-Discrimination) includes the largest number of outstanding issues. After making significant moves to address the administration’s concerns in our last Non-Discrimination proposal, Columbia still offered only minimal new language to address our proposal for timely access to a neutral arbitrator if necessary. Columbia also did not change its position on many other outstanding issues in this package that bear on our ability to have a strong, effective voice through our union into the future.

Package 3 – Columbia restored previous proposals for significant increases to minimum salaries for Postdoc and Associate Researchers. But their proposal would still leave us behind peer institutions until at least July 2021, does not achieve full equity for Postdoctoral Research Fellows, and lacks fair increases for those above the minimums and for long term employees. Furthermore, Postdoctoral and Associate researchers whose salaries are above the new proposed minimum would not be eligible for a salary increase until July 2021.  

We will bargain again next week Wednesday and will keep you posted as we keep moving forward.

In solidarity,

The CPW-UAW bargaining committee