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Fact-finding panel issues report on UC/CUE dispute
Recommendation that clerical workers receive equity adjustments for 2003-04 is rejected by UC; CUE rebuked for leaking draft report

| 23 February 2005

A fact-finding panel charged with making non-binding recommendations on issues in dispute between the University of California and the Coalition of University Employees (CUE) has issued its report. A key finding of the three-member panel is that UC, despite its claims to the contrary, was in fact able to provide clerical employees with an across-the-board raise during the 2003-04 fiscal year, but elected not to do so.

The panel included one representative from UC, one from the union, and a neutral arbitrator.

The university's representative on the panel, Labor Relations Coordinator Peter Chester, dissented from this finding, but concurred with other negative recommendations relating to CUE's demands for reduced health-insurance premiums and a freeze on parking costs. CUE's representative on the panel, attorney Henry Levy, dissented from those recommendations.

(No panel determination relating to wages, benefits, or parking was made unanimously; all such recommendations were issued on a 2-1 majority basis.)

The panel reviewed some 1,000 pages of supporting documentation during its deliberations and interviewed witnesses provided by both parties. On the basis of this evidence, the panel determined that "almost 90,000 FTE employees out of [a systemwide total of] 115,000 FTE employees received wage increases of one size or another for the fiscal year 2003-04." Some of these were across-the-board increases, ranging from less than 0.1 percent to as much as 5 percent (the amount awarded to police and public-safety personnel), while others were individually based equity increases. The clerical workers represented by CUE were among those who received no across-the-board increase, even though evidence presented during the fact-finding process established that they are "significantly underpaid" relative to both the marketplace and the Consumer Price Index.

The University stated that it had been prepared to provide an across-the-board increase of 6 percent to CUE-represented employees for the 2003-04 fiscal year, and had identified non-state funding for $20 million of the estimated $30 million such an increase would cost; the remaining $10 million was requested from the state. When that amount was not forthcoming - the University received almost $1 billion less than it requested in state funding for that fiscal year - the $20 million in nonstate funding for increases was allocated elsewhere.

The university based its refusal to provide increases for clerical workers on what it said was a longstanding policy to provide no such increase when no funds for that purpose are provided by the state. The panel majority responded in these words: "When one considers first the fact that the university budgeted non-state funds for salary increases based on its proposal to the state and, secondly, the university does provide wage increases for the bulk of the employees, the university's assertion that it has a hard and fast policy about no wage increases to employees when the state does not provide that in its legislative grant is simply not true."

The panel majority also wrote that "there is no question that the university is in a position to afford a wage increase for the clerical employees in the present unit. There is no question that the university should pay the clerical employees a wage increase based on their relative position in the marketplace." However, the panel chose not to recommend that a retroactive across-the-board increase be paid to CUE employees, saying such an increase would be "inappropriate."

A spokesperson for the UC Office of the President agreed with that statement, but disagreed with the fact-finders' recommendation that 90 percent of clerical employees be granted equity increases for 2003-04, which, he said, "amounts to an across-the-board increase" that would be "unfair to the other UC employees who also had to forego increases for 2003-04 when the state was unable to appropriate funds for UC salary increases." He also stated that salaries, as permanent expenditures, require "continuous funding - they cannot be predicated on one-time or temporary money," and he expressed confidence that the 2003 compact between the governor's office and the university would provide increased salary funding that "should allow the university to begin to reverse [the] trend" whereby faculty and staff salaries have lagged behind the market.

In a related matter, the panel sent a letter of rebuke - signed by all three members - to CUE over the unauthorized release of a draft version of the fact-finding report, a section of which was quoted by a negotiatior for another union, the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), during negotiations at UC Santa Barbara on two successive days in late January. Another section was quoted in a story on the report that appeared in the legal newspaper The Recorder in early February. University Counsel Therese Leone, citing this unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, has asked the Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency, to investigate and remedy the matter.

CUE took responsibility for the initial leaks, the fact-finding panel noted in its letter of rebuke, and acknowledged that its actions were "contrary to the statutory laws regarding confidentiality as well as the statutory obligation to work in good faith toward an agreement."

For further information about the fact-finders' report, including links to the full text of the report and the dissents filed by both UC and CUE, visit newscenter.berkeley.edu/goto/CUEfact_find.