Oct. 10, after continuous deliberation, an agreement was announced between University of California Librarians and the UC system. The American Federation of Teachers Union announced the new program, which proponents said honors the work of the University of California librarians, while keeping in mind the strained economic state of the university system.
Of the 350 UC librarians that the agreement covers, 33 UC Davis librarians are affected.
Discussion, which began in June, was limited to 2011-12 salaries covered by the four-year contract, which is set to end September of 2012. An agreement was reached on Sept. 28.
The agreement reached entails eligibility for librarians to participate in the annual merit program for 2011-12, as academic employees.
Axel Borg, president of the local University Council – American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) 2023 of UC Davis, and current wine and food science bibliographer at Shields library, has been working as a UC librarian for 27 years.
“We want to have a contract in place and one of the things that made it important for us was that the university decided in going into bargaining to not fund the merit salary actions that were earned by librarians until bargaining was done. It was unclear to us whether they would make it retroactive or not,” Borg said.
The librarian series, constituted of assistant, associate and full librarians, holds employees that are and are not represented by the union. Those who are not represented received their merit pay during the negotiation period. The university elected to withhold pay for those represented within the union.
“As it was they did make it retroactive and we felt that while the university was legal in doing, that it was damaging to librarian morale,” Borg said.
The agreement constitutes participation in a one-time merit-based salary increase program for 2011-12, which will cover performance evaluation as well.
Librarians are able to increase salaries by improving skills and undergoing merit review periodically to move up a step system. The interval for review ranges from one to three years, depending on librarian rank. Expectations for review will grow as the intervals increase, Borg said. Those who show little to satisfactory progress have the possibility of becoming retained or dismissed.
The UC-AFT represents non-senate faculty and librarians of the University of California, and negotiates statewide collective bargaining contracts and establishes the rights of employment as a UC librarian.
Head of negotiations and president of UC-AFT Santa Cruz Local 2199, Mike Rotkin, explained the University Administration has decided that they are no longer going to range salary adjustments or Cost of Living Increases (COLAs), but would rather base increases on merit.
“They have cooked up the fiction of ‘merit-based’ salary programs … [and] will end up excluding a handful of librarians who will remain on the old salary scale until their next merit review, when they will likely be moved up to the new scale and recoup the 3 percent they are being denied in this settlement. It is window dressing,” he said.
Librarians of the University of California system are currently being paid about 19 percent behind comparable librarian positions at the California State Universities (CSU) and less than librarians at all community colleges within a close radius of a UC campus.
“We have estimated that 40 percent of the librarians hired over the past 10 years have now left UC for positions elsewhere. That is a huge turnover rate and it leaves the remaining UC librarians with workload problems since they have to do their own work as well as that previously done by the librarians who have left and not been replaced. UC is in denial about this,” Rotkin said.
The biological and agricultural sciences department of the Shields Library, where Borg works, currently has only two librarians (Borg and Ruth Gustafson), which support all of the biological and agricultural sciences on the UC Davis campus.
The work of a librarian, Borg explains, ranges from a wide variety of technical to academic work. Librarians oversee the ordering of books, journals and DVDs and catalogue and process new library entries. Some, like Borg, work with the faculty when they need a class given in support of their instruction. Undergraduate and graduate students are also invited to work with librarians to find articles or books for research papers, by appointment.
Dianne Klein, a media relations representative of the University of California Office of the President, said the university has 12 system-wide unions and depending on the union, some contracts will last for one to five years and both sides are given the option to petition the agreement, as done for this case.
“It is an issue of fairness, but it is also keeping in mind the financial constraints of the university, so this was negotiated in part of the collective bargaining process, and with the librarians. It was nothing controversial, it was amicable, we are certainly happy that we reached an agreement.
They are academic employees so they were eligible as well for the across the board increases as part of the academic staff,” Klein said.
The salary increase program began Oct. 1, yet the agreement continues to raise concern.
Borg said he is worried about staffing levels.
“I read things about what the chancellor is saying about excellence, and I’m wondering how we can have a library that supports excellence when we are losing so many people,” Borg said. “It seems that as we lose people we just divide up the responsibilities and give more and more work to fewer and fewer people.”
The librarians’ union intends to continue to press for pay increases that will bring them up to the level of CSU librarians, Borg said.
“We have other issues, but the pay disparity is our central concern. It is a problem both for our members and for the university libraries as institutions.”
MUNA SADEK can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.