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State has a new six-year contract with SUNY faculty and staff

The state’s last contract with United University Professions, the nation’s largest higher-education union, ended in July 1, 2016, and the new contract is retroactive to then.

The Campus Center at Farmingdale State College, which

The Campus Center at Farmingdale State College, which has about 1,100 employees who belong to the United University Professions union. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

The state has reached a six-year contract agreement with United University Professions, the union representing SUNY employees, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced this week.

The contract includes 2 percent wage increases each year through the 2021-22 school year, access to paid family leave benefits and a newly established minimum compensation level for part-time faculty.

The state’s last contract with UUP, the nation’s largest higher-education union, ended in July 1, 2016, and the new contract is retroactive to then. It affects more than 35,000 employees of the State University of New York system, including thousands of faculty and staff members at the four-year SUNY schools on Long Island.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this, and we were very pleased that it finally was expedited and it finally became a reality,” said Vicki Janik, a professor and president of Farmingdale State College’s UUP chapter, which has about 1,100 members.

Full contract details have yet to be released.

Cuomo said the contract “fairly compensates SUNY university employees” and is a “significant step forward for all of New York’s public universities.”

The agreement comes as the 64-campus system heads into its second year implementing Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship, which provides tuition dollars for eligible in-state, middle-class students.

SUNY could not immediately provide the budgetary impact of the retroactive contract, spokeswoman Holly Liapis said. “SUNY is carefully reviewing the agreement.”

The paid family leave provision makes UUP the first public-sector union in the state to have the policy included in a new contract, according to the union.

Beginning in 2019, the contract also would establish a minimum starting salary for part-time faculty members, known as adjuncts, for each three-credit course they teach at the state-operated campuses.

“This is part of a larger effort that’s being made on a national and international level on behalf of adjuncts everywhere,” said Douglas Cody, a part-time professor of chemistry who represents adjuncts for UUP’s Farmingdale chapter and who participated in the negotiations.

Adjuncts make up more than 70 percent of the faculty at Farmingdale State, he said, adding that they are often paid well below the rate of full-time faculty, even though many have an equivalent level of education and more field experience. He called the new provision long overdue and “very important.”

The six-year term of the contract also provides some stability for the state, campuses and employees, Cody said.

In addition to salary increases, the agreement allows employees to access a yearly grant to help pay for their child’s education at SUNY state-operated campuses.

UUP’s members must ratify the contract. A vote will be conducted by mail this summer, according to the union.

“We’re very pleased that we have a contract and those of us who are privy to the details think that we’ve done the best we could,” said Martha Livingston, a professor who served on the negotiations committee and is president of the union’s Old Westbury chapter, which has more than 500 members. “Did it give us everything that we wanted? Of course not, but it’s fair, and it’s reasonable.”

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