Deliberations over faculty increases for the 2018-19 academic year started in June, but a final decision has yet to be made.
Last September, former Kansas governor Sam Brownback authorized a 2.5 percent raise for certain state employees, namely unclassified workers who did not receive a salary increase in 2017. This summer, members of the PSU chapter of the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) met with university administration representatives to discuss salary increases for 2018.
“The teams from PSU-KNEA and the administration team, they negotiate every year for raises and things of that nature …” Grant Moss, PSU-KNEA president and associate professor of Spanish at PSU, said. “… They’re still trying to negotiate a certain amount for the people who didn’t get a raise last year.”
In June, the administration presented an offer of a 1.5 percent salary increase for faculty who did not receive a Legislative raise last year and 0.5 percent for those who did. Members of PSU-KNEA sent a survey out to Pitt State faculty regarding summer course loads, faculty satisfaction levels, and other questions about employment and salaries. The results showed that the majority of faculty rejected the administration’s offer, and negotiations resumed. Moss addressed this dilemma at the opening faculty meeting Thursday, Aug. 16.
“… My job as KNEA president is just to remind everybody that ‘hey, make sure we commit every year to our priorities,’” Moss said. “… I mentioned three things, my three specifics, that I hear people talking about in conversation all the time.”
Moss especially focused on the concept of recommitting to priorities, which include, he said, incorporating a three percent salary increase into the budget and reconsidering the balance between administrative and faculty hires.
“… We have a lot of administrative hires sometimes, and so we want to make sure that we recommit as an institution to what’s really important, and then the third thing I talked about was well why don’t we have a three percent increase every year for faculty and the university support staff, and I think it should be number one on the budget,” Moss said. “… I think that if we set it up in the budget to begin with, say that ‘we’re going to go with all employees,’ three percent, at the very top, then that way we don’t have to negotiate all summer long … it’s a good way to say ‘we’re going to focus on you guys.’
But enforcing a three percent increase and balancing the number of administrative hires involve decisions easier said than done.
PSU President Steve Scott said that the university is working to handle monetary challenges, especially in light of this year’s multiple employee layoffs and concerns from faculty regarding job security and salary increases.
“It’s pretty clear that the shortage of financial resources has put a lot of pressure on everybody. I do think that we’ll always want to watch and listen to people who are concerned about the workplace and salaries, we really want to move salaries forward, we do,” Scott said. “ We also have to at the same time maintain the viability of this institution, we can’t overcommit. This last year we saw K-State reduce their expenditure by about 15 million, KU announced a $20 million reduction, and I think that was a realization that they had built in structural components in their budge that weren’t sustainable, that’s their words not mine, they said they weren’t sustainable. We really try to stay away from that and not overcommit and make sure it all works.”
The PSU-KNEA and administrative bargaining teams are expected to reach a conclusion soon, according to Moss. Until then, members on both sides hope to reach a decision that can be agreed on for the benefit of employees across the university.
“We’re all in this together, working hard to really move the university forward,” Scott said. “As I said that Thursday at the opening meeting, even in the face of the headwinds that we have had, we have accomplished some pretty remarkable things, and our work’s not done. We’ll continue to work hard, to do better, and we’ll continue to work as our mission statement says make this a great place to work for faculty and staff. And I’ll work hard to honor and recognize the work of all employees.”