FAQs Concerning our Statewide Negotiating Progress

as of August 6, 2015
Are our increments really suspended? Is it legal?
Yes and yes. The OER instructed all nine State Colleges/Universities in our sector to stop adding increments to our salaries as of July 1, 2015. This means you do not move up any Step on the salary guide until the contract is settled, provided that the Steps remain in the contract as currently configured. There are also no cost of living increases this year, as those would also need to be negotiated. Regrettably, this is legal and supported by a Public Employee Relations Commission ruling in a PBA Grievance that has wide implications for public employee bargaining units in New Jersey.

I read in the newspaper that CWA and IFPTE are challenging the withholding of increments. Are we involved in that action?
We are not involved. CWA and IFPTE are basing their challenge on the fact that the State's notification of its intent to amend the terms of their agreements was received three days late. Our letter was received on time and we are not part of that action.

What else has OER suspended? Can Dr. Cole and the Board of Trustees restore increments before a contract is renegotiated and ratified?
OER told our administration that increments, the Eye Care Program, the Special Merit Program, Career Development and Tuition Reimbursement were all to be suspended as of July 1st. The Special Merit Program is subject to legislative appropriation and has never, ever been funded, so that is no loss. At this time we have not heard of anyone being denied Tuition Reimbursement, and Career Development was funded by the Provost for AY2015-2016 awards. It was the University's decision to fund Career Development that has brought us to the conclusion that the University can Ignore all or parts of the OER letter. In his last statement to the Board of Trustees, AFT Local 1904 President Rich Wolfson appealed to the Board to do just that: fund the increments and the other provisions of our contract until a successor agreement is completed. But the money that our university would save by following the OER letter is very attractive to the administration and is a powerful motivator for the Board and the administration to tell us that their hands are tied. They are not!

What happens to the money from the increments if it does not go into our unit members' base salaries?
The local has calculated that the MSU administration will keep over 2.5 million dollars of our money each year that increments are not funded. That money would be in the general funds to be used for whatever the university budgets it for.

When we eventually do sign a contract, what is the possibility that our increments could then be applied retroactively?
Our negotiating team will fight hard to retain our increments and have them applied retroactively upon ratification of a new agreement. But there is no guarantee that we can prevail in that.  Last cycle we were the only unit that lost an increment and we will not let the Presidents and the State forget that. But in the end, there are no guarantees as it truly is a negotiation. And frankly, if we can't convince the State and the Presidents that we are standing together as one and will not tolerate further erosion of our salaries, it will be difficult to prevail in the end.

Are administrators or Dr. Cole getting raises?
No managerial staff, including Dr. Cole, are getting cost of living increases this year.  That said, from what we've pieced together from board actions in previous years, Dr. Cole appears to be getting a $25,000 retention bonus. She also has a provision in her contract for a 10-20% yearly performance bonus, but the status of that bonus is unknown. The board has not made the president's 2015-2016 compensation package public. We will keep you updated on this if we receive further information.

I think this is wrong. What can I do?
Here's what you can do about it:

  • Get involved with the Local - Come to the September 9th General Union Meeting to learn how.
  • Become a full member if you are not already. Not sure if you are a full dues-paying member? Contact the Local's office at extension x4453 to find out.
Becoming a full dues-paying member helps your leadership have a greater voice at the negotiations table. During negotiating caucuses, we vote by delegate strength. Since Montclair has the most full dues-paying members of any Local in our statewide Council, we have the largest voting block. Each of these votes counts, and if we can increase or membership, we can increase our influence at the table. Sometimes the decisions we make are within a vote or two.
Local 1904 needs only 10 members more for an additional vote. So, if you are not a full member, please consider joining now.

When do you think we'll have a successor agreement?
We have no idea how long it will take to negotiate a new agreement. Over almost 40 years we typically concluded negotiations by the November after the contract had expired. However, we are now dealing with a governor who has made bashing public employees, especially teachers, his favorite pastime. For the agreement that expired in June 2011, we came to an agreement in July of 2012. Note that before Governor Christie, we had always carried over the increments into the next contract during negotiations.

Who represents us on the statewide negotiating team?
Each of the nine State Universities/Colleges is allowed three members on the negotiating team. For Montclair those members are President Rich Wolfson and Chief Negotiator Ken Brook. Bill Sullivan and Jennifer Higgins are also at the table in their roles as Council Executive VP and Professional Staff Representative, respectively. That leaves one slot open and the officers of Local 1904 have decided to use that slot when we need a member of the Local at the table who is an expert in a given area. Be it Professional Staff, Faculty, Librarian or non-tenure-track Specialist, we felt that the added flexibility will serve us better than adding another permanent member to the team.

The negotiating team for the State and the Presidents is comprised of the OER Deputy Director who serves as chief negotiator, another member of OER, an outside labor attorney, and several representatives of the University/College Presidents.