Unionized lecturers continue to negotiate contract, rehiring rights with UC

UC-AFT Protest
Nirvana Ellabody/File
University Council-American Federation of Teachers demonstrators come together to demand a fair contract for UC lecturers and demonstrate their willingness to strike.

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While 2020 has left many unemployed and without a steady source of income, UC lecturers find themselves without contracts, an issue that was discussed at the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, faculty bargaining session Tuesday.

The contract negotiation process began in April 2019 as stakeholders hoped a new contract could be solidified before their old one expired Jan. 31. As that date has come and gone, the most recent meeting between the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, and UC-AFT lecturers took place Tuesday and was kept confidential, according to UCOP spokesperson Stett Holbrook.

Though UC lecturers are currently contractless, the provisions of their past contract remain intact with the exception of grievance mechanisms, such as third-party mediation for problem situations, and salary increases, according to UC Berkeley lecturer and UC-AFT Local 1474 board member Crystal Chang.

Fellow campus lecturer and co-chair of UC-AFT Local 1474 Joanna Reed said UC-AFT lecturers entered negotiations with three aims: Secure better pay, compensation for unpaid work outside their job descriptions and rehiring rights for existing lecturers. Due to the pandemic and the university’s subsequent financial losses, however, UC-AFT members tabled the first two aims to focus on job stability.

As the expired contract stands, Chang said “pre-six” lecturers, or those who have not completed 12 semesters of teaching within the same department, are in jeopardy of being laid off when their yearly or semesterly contracts expire. After the 12 semesters have been completed, they become continuing lecturers accompanied with some job security. Chang added that continuing lecturers can still be laid off, unlike tenured professors.

“The university has a vested interest in keeping us, basically what they call gig labor, working from contract to contract because they don’t have to offer benefits,” said UC Berkeley lecturer David Walter. “Unless you have an academic year contract, you have to wait to see if the department wants to hire you for the next term.”

With the goal to curb the uncertainty that stems from semesterly or yearly contracts, UC-AFT proposed a 1-2-3 system in which lecturers initially receive a yearlong contract, Chang said.

If lecturers are reviewed and it is determined that they have performed well, UC-AFT proposed that their next contract last two years and then three years until they have completed all six years to become a continuing lecturer, according to Chang.

The university put forth a proposal to allow lecturers to express early interest in teaching courses for the following year, and under certain circumstances, to count summer courses toward eligibility for continuing appointments, according to a UCnet press release.

Additionlly, the university has proposed adding a senior continuing lecture status, the press release said.

“Currently, in the event of a layoff, all Continuing Lecturers receive a one-year notice or pay in lieu of notice, as well as two years of reemployment rights,” the UCnet press release states. “UC proposed that once a Continuing Lecturer achieves Senior Continuing Lecturer status, their reemployment rights will be increased to three years.

While Chang and UC-AFT lecturers appreciate the opportunity for lecturers to advance further, she said the promotion should come with a salary increase, as is the case with tenured employees.

The university has also proposed extending paid medical leave to lecturers hired at two-thirds of full time or greater, the press release said.

Due to conflicting proposals regarding the rehiring rights of existing lecturers, however, negotiations remain at a stalemate, according to Chang.

“Students deserve to have teachers who are spending their full effort and energy on teaching their classes and not having to be looking around for another job,” Reed said.

Contact Veronica Roseborough at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @v_roseborough.