Friday, September 7, 2012

UC Librarians Fight for Release of Earned Merit Pay Increases

Update 9/26/2012: An online petition has been posted seeking support on this issue, especially since the UC recently paid outrageous bonuses to senior executives while still withholding merit pay raises from UC librarians who went through the peer review process successfully.

University of California librarians are protesting over the central administration's unwillingness to pay merit increases to line librarians who were awarded such increases after an arduous academic peer review process. The pay raises were supposed to go into effect on 1 July 2012.

It is perhaps not as well known that librarians, as academic employees of the university, have to undergo periodic reviews of their work performance similar to tenured faculty.

However, management is refusing to pay out the pay raises for those who were successful in their academic review. About a third of the bargaining unit of almost 350 academic librarians is affected; those librarians came up for and completed their academic reviews this past year.

Unionized librarians - members of the University Council of the American Federation of Teachers - on the UCs have now begun a postcard campaign (see graphics) to publicize the administrative intransigence. Postcards signed by unionized members are being submitted to UC President Mark Yudof and campus University Librarians. The postcards argue that the earned merits should be released now!

The UC librarians face a union contract expiration at the end of this month and have been in talks with the administration to extend the contract. This merit pay issue has hence become embroiled in bargaining, with the UC offering to release the earned pay increases only if the union agrees to cuts in the pension package.

UC Berkeley law librarian I-Wei Wang has penned a strong public appeal to the UC to release the merit pay increases.

She writes inter alia: "I, along with about one third of my librarian colleagues throughout this campus, have recently undergone the rigorous peer-review process that governs promotion and advancement in the librarian career track. Our merit increases– based on our demonstrated professional performance and contributions to the education and service missions of the library and university system over the past two to three years as well as our promise and potential for further contributions—have already been granted by the reviewers. But now the University negotiators have threatened to withhold the salary increases we have already shown we deserve until librarians agree to a contract extension and give up certain rights pertaining to planned changes in retirement benefits.

She argues that the UC actions are "deeply demoralizing" to her, adding, "The choice to become an academic librarian represented a significant economic sacrifice on my family’s part, but I willingly made that sacrifice in order to dedicate myself to the teaching and research mission of this institution." She continues:

"For the University to answer that dedication with this slap in the face is truly offensive, not to mention counterproductive. It is clearly a bullying tactic, meant to divide me and similarly situated colleagues from those of our peers who happen not to be under review at a time when our contract is under negotiation. Instead of making me want to give in to the University’s position on the collective bargaining agreement — instead of causing me to cave in to blackmail — this tactic just leaves me feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and yes, angry. It is an unsavory and utterly unfair measure aimed at precisely those librarians who, by being granted merit increases during this review cycle, have proven our extraordinary contribution to the mission of the University.

"What makes the University’s tactics all the more contemptible is that there is so little money involved. The actual amount of the merit raise that I was awarded by reviewers, and that is now being withheld from me in an effort to pressure us all to accept the University’s proposal, is a pittance compared to the kind of salary I could expect (and have commanded) in the private sector — and, more to the point, the amount at issue is meaningless to the University, even in our current budget situation. It’s not about saving money in tough economic times; it’s a blatant attempt to cut off negotiations and bind all of the academic librarians that serve this University by holding a group of us as economic hostages. Don’t get me wrong: I know I deserve a raise, and I want the money that I have earned. But I’m not going to submit to outright extortion in order to get it.

"If you care about fairness and equity, if you appreciate everything that my colleagues and I do for this University, please lend your voice in support of UC librarians. We have earned our merits. Please release them."

Bravo I-Wei! - Daniel C. Tsang.

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