UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl said the state’s fiscal crisis will prevent the university from boosting its wage offer to clerical workers, who are set to strike Monday,
“I understand their frustration and the concerns that they have,” said Berdahl at his annual back-to-school press conference Thursday. “There really isn’t the kind of leeway that I wish we had.”
Berdahl acknowledged that “many staff have salaries that make it difficult for them to support families,” but said the university’s hopes for a cash infusion to boost salaries this year “disappeared very quickly as the budget situation went south.”
Clericals, though, say there is much more the university can do.
“The University of California’s own figures show that only 36 percent of [the clericals’] salaries come from state monies,” said Michael-David Sasson, president of the Berkeley chapter of the Coalition of University Employees, which represents 18,000 clericals systemwide.
“The current crisis in the state budget is not determinant of salaries.”
The union maintains that the university has an unrestricted $2.3 billion reserve it could tap for salary increases. But university officials say they need the money to support other programs.
CUE is asking for a 15 percent raise over two years for clericals throughout the system. The university says it is offering a 3.5 percent pay hike over the course of two years, with an additional 3 percent in deferred pay that would appear in employees’ retirement plans.
Union officials say the university’s two-year offer, excluding the deferred pay, actually amounts to 2.5 percent, not 3.5 percent.
In June, the Berkeley branch of CUE, which represents 2,300 secretaries, library assistants and childcare workers at UC Berkeley and the Oakland-based offices of the system-wide president, authorized a strike. The union officially announced the three-day work stoppage at a campus rally on Sproul Plaza Wednesday.
Fifty nurses from the university’s health care center and 600 lecturers will join in “sympathy strikes” with the clericals.
Berdahl warned, at the press conference, that state funding woes might eventually extend to the students. If the economic slump continues and the state is unable to increase funding for the UC system, he said, student tuition for California residents, which has remained stable for eight years, may increase in the future.
The chancellor said there was good news around student housing, an ongoing concern for the university. For the first time in his tenure, Berdahl said, there is no waiting list for student housing.
The chancellor attributed the improvement, in part, to the construction of the university-owned, 120-bed College-Durant apartment complex, which opened this weekend and played host to the press conference Thursday.
By 2005, the university plans to have 1,100 new beds in place on the south side of campus, getting closer to its goal of guaranteed housing for first-year students, half of second-year students and all transfer students.
Berdahl, in the free-ranging press conference, also suggested that he opposes a push by some students and faculty to divest from Israel, and said UC Regent Ward Connerly’s Racial Privacy Initiative, which will appear on the state ballot in November, is “a bad idea.”
The Racial Privacy Initiative would ban state agencies from collecting data on citizens’ race. Berdahl said he is concerned, in particular, that important social science databases might be effected. He said carefully-worded exemptions must be included in the measure.
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