More than 100 members of the Professional Staff Congress attended a Feb. 15 protest slamming the City University of New York’s decision to delay equity pay raises that were supposed to be given to Assistants to Higher Education Officers and Lecturers.
The $1,000 increase for 1,295 people in that job title was supposed to take effect Feb. 1, with the first paychecks reflecting that higher amount to be distributed Feb. 11. CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez assured the union during a Dec. 16 meeting that the raises would be implemented, according to the PSC.
But on Feb. 10, CUNY’s Offices of Labor Relations and Human Resources informed the union that the equity pay raises for all Assistants to HEOs would be delayed indefinitely, along with $1,500 equity pay raises for 1,262 Lecturers that were set to take effect in April.
PSC First Vice President Andrea Vasquez, an Associate Higher Education Officer at the CUNY Graduate Center, helped organize the President’s Day rally outside CUNY’s Midtown headquarters.
“The news came [right] before members were expecting this money in their checks, so this is a real blow,” she said.
All CUNY employees have already been affected by the delay of a 2-percent raise that was supposed to take effect Nov. 15.
The equity raises totaled $1.2 million, according to the union. PSC President Barbara Bowen argued that there was no excuse for the raises to be withheld, particularly since the public-university system has received millions in Federal coronavirus funding.
“This is a university with a multi-billion-dollar budget; $1.2 million is a small amount. It’s just unacceptable,” she said.
The union negotiated the $1,000 equity pay raises for Assistants to HEOs in order to address the fact that they were among the lowest-paid full-time employees within CUNY—earning as little as $41,686 a year—and were predominantly women and people of color. Lecturers also were on the low end of the pay scale for full-time staff, with a $48,550 starting pay.
“The equity raise is a commitment from us to give to the lowest-paid members,” Ms. Vasquez explained. “It’s inconceivable to me that the CUNY administration, which speaks so much about equity and diversity, could be so disrespectful to these workers. Some of them have been working 20 or 30 years.”
Nancy Silverman, who has been an Assistant to Higher Education Officers at the CUNY Graduate Center for 13 years, said that the staffers were angry and disappointed about not getting the raises.
“For my colleagues on the lower end of the pay scale, that $1,000 does make a difference, especially during the pandemic,” she said, pointing out that many Assistants to Higher Education Officers have seen an increased workload during recent months. “We haven’t heard from CUNY at all or gotten an apology, so it feels like a lack of respect.”
'Can't Allow Breach'
Ms. Vasquez called for the raises to be implemented immediately.
“We cannot allow the contract to be violated. We need to know that when we sign a contract that it will not be breached, especially not for something as simple as a raise,” she said.
CUNY did not immediately offer a response as to why the raises were put on hold.
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