On May 29, the University of California resolved a contract battle with lecturers that lasted nearly three years, as well as one with research support professionals and technical employees that has lasted almost a year.

The University’s tentative agreement with the University Council-American Federation of Teachers will raise the salary for lecturers with less than six years on the job from the current $27,000 to $37,000 per year by 2005. It will also establish a new minimum salary of $40,200 for lecturers employed for over six years. The agreement, which still must be approved by the 2,000-plus UC-AFT members, also includes provisions for increased job security. It will run through June 2006.

A tentative agreement was also reached with the University Professional & Technical Employees. Two separate contracts were formed for research support professionals and technical workers, but UPTE local president Rodney Orr said they were “similar in all language.”

The agreements, retroactive to June 2002 and October 2002, respectively, will provide wage increases ranging from 1.5 percent to approximately 2.25 percent for 2002-03. It will also provide new severance pay options, giving employees the choice between full severance pay with no preferential rehire status, or a “combination” package of less-than-full severance pay and limited preferential rehire status. Orr said he expected the agreements, which will run through September 2004, to be ratified by the union’s 8,000 systemwide members by the end of June.

UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said the negotiations were conducted separately and called their same-day resolution coincidental.

The University’s agreement with the American Federation of Teachers ended negotiations that began in the spring of 2000. Bargaining between the union, which represents over 2,000 lecturers and non-tenured professors throughout the UC system, and the University has at times been contentious, leading to a three-day strike in October 2002.

Both sides also filed complaints with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board. The union argued that the University was stalling negotiations by sending representatives to the bargaining table who did not have decision-making power, while the University complained that the union illegally went on strike. State mediators eventually joined the process, which Schwartz said “brought perspective” to the bargaining.

Both University statements announcing the agreements referred to “significant state funding constraints,” which was also a contentious issue during negotiations. UC-AFT has complained the University used budget cuts as an excuse, and claimed the University possesses billions of dollars in unallocated funds.

UC-AFT’s contract will also include the establishment of a professional development fund. Field representative Allegra Heidelinde said lecturers could use the fund to attend workshops and conferences.

“The UC expects lecturers to be excellent,” she said. “Until now, there was no system to assist in maintaining that excellence.”

Heidelinde said the contract includes “stronger language” to protect “pre-six year” faculty from being replaced for economic reasons. Third-party arbitrators will review decisions the lecturers find unfair, including what the union calls “post-six avoidance layoffs.”

Continuing post-six year employees will be guaranteed departmental merit reviews every three years, with the expectation of continuing appointments and salary increases pending “excellent” reviews.

“If someone is good at what they’re doing,” Heidelinde said, “they shouldn’t be replaced just so the University can avoid giving them ‘continuing’ status.”