UMass President Caret ignores contract obligations; unions side with students

Faculty and staff represented by various labor unions working across the University of Massachusetts system are criticizing President Robert Caret and his administration for failing to honor recently ratified contracts and claiming that to pay for negotiated raises, UMass would need to increase student fees.

“It was bad enough when President Caret refused to pay raises agreed to in several contracts ratified last year, but he is way out of line to let stand statements made by his administration that student fees would have to increase if the collective bargaining agreements were honored,” said Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni.

A vice chancellor of administration and finance at UMass Dartmouth sent a letter last week to all faculty, staff and students that said, “To avoid passing the cost of the salary increases on to students, we need supplemental state funds.”

Faculty and staff from UMass Boston have organized an informational picket set to begin at noon on Wednesday, April 15, at Caret’s Boston office, 225 Franklin St., to protest his refusal to fully fund workers’ contracts.

Unions affiliated with the MTA affirmed their commitment to continually work with the Legislature to secure the funding necessary to keep UMass affordable for students and families.

“Our members have been unwavering in their belief that cost should not be a barrier to qualified students who want to attend UMass. Trying to pit students against faculty and staff is irresponsible and not the type of leadership we expect at UMass. It tears at the fabric of the university system,” Madeloni said.

Several bargaining units ratified contracts with UMass last year. Governor Charlie Baker, former Governor Deval Patrick and the Legislature, through its validation process, have all made clear that UMass has the funding necessary to pay for the contract costs.

“We’ve seen buildings go up and administrators’ pay go up. Yet you refuse to keep your word, honor the contracts you negotiated, and pay us a simple 3 percent cost-of-living increase.”

- PSU Vice President Anneta Argyres

The Professional Staff Union at campuses in Boston and Amherst is still bargaining with UMass.

Caret, who is leaving UMass this summer for a job with the University of Maryland system, has claimed that UMass does not have the funding for pay raises called for in the contracts. Last week, however, he changed his position and announced that he would begin paying negotiated raises starting May 3, even though the contracts are effective July 1, 2014, meaning faculty and staff are owed several months of back pay.

At the April 8 meeting of the UMass Board of Trustees, Anneta Argyres, vice president of the PSU, questioned how UMass could be in need of additional funds for collective bargaining considering increases in funding from both the Legislature and through tuition and fees.

“UMass has received a raise of over 22 percent in the last three years from the Legislature. And UMass has seen an increase in revenue from tuition and fees of over 16 percent in the same period,” Argyres said. “We’ve seen buildings go up and administrators’ pay go up. Yet you refuse to keep your word, honor the contracts you negotiated, and pay us a simple 3 percent cost-of-living increase.”

 

 

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