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The Board’s Message on Negotiations is Clear: There is No Middle Ground

On Thursday, November 11, during 4Cs Negotiations with the Board of Regents, we heard some outrageous responses. From, “We want to restore our management rights,” and “There is no middle ground,” to demands we “cease and desist,” expressing our first amendment rights to free speech. The Board made clear they have no interest in reaching an agreement on any of our proposals. Then, as the negotiation session concluded, the Board’s team made clear their goal in negotiations is not to negotiate. Returning to the table was not a good faith effort to resume discussions. Rather, it was a necessary step after CSCU President, Terrance Cheng, publicly insisted he was committed to the process.

When the 4Cs attorney and spokesperson, Eric Chester, asked where some progress could be made in negotiations, the Board’s team had a response ready, “To be frank, we have no interest in that goal.” The entire 4Cs team was stunned. And, then they continued, “We want faculty back in the classroom. I am not interested. The Board isn’t interested. I am being honest with you.”

The gaps between Cheng’s position, “that we must engage meaningfully to find middle ground” and the entrenched position of the team he sent are monumental. Incremental progress cannot be advanced by one side and yet, that is where the 4Cs find themselves after having highlighted 15 of our proposals from 80 to make progress.

While negotiations are always complicated, they are also an opportunity to find a way through a difficult path. The very notion pits one side against the other, but there is also the reasonable expectation that each side will cede some expectations to find common ground. President Cheng said exactly that at Asnuntuck on Oct 22, when he met and talked with representatives from the 4Cs when we appealed to him for help getting his team to return to negotiations.

It was working with this clearly set expectation of moving from entrenched positions to finding common ground, that the 4Cs came to the table with just 15 proposals. Proposals that sought to protect members from management’s increasingly aggressive efforts to increase workload, provide reasonable requests to work remotely, and protect 4Cs work from management’s efforts to give it to non-bargaining unit employees. We even came to the table with a proposal we thought was beneficial to both parties – portable tenure. The existing contract language on tenure is strong, but it only guarantees portable tenure for involuntary transfers. If CSCU needs employees at other colleges, employees may be willing to voluntarily transfer if they could take tenure with them. Therefore, both parties would benefit from making tenure portable, and it is one example of a middle ground proposal that the union was willing to make. 

Mr. Cheng’s team returned from caucus with a counteroffer that trampled our olive branch.

“Yes, we are interested in this first proposal of yours. We’ll agree to this if the 4Cs will come out in support of Consolidation in writing and work with us to implement it,” but it didn’t end there. They also insisted 4Cs members, “…cease and desist protesting at Board meetings, in the press, at Governor’s visits, campus events, and with the legislature.”

Our proposal sought to find a path that the Board would find appealing. Instead, their counter demonstrates continued hostility toward the 4Cs and our members.

In the last two months the Board claimed all the proposals on the table came directly from management at the colleges while managers at the colleges have repeatedly said, they were not consulted. President Cheng said a contract is important and he believes we can find middle ground, but his team contradicted him. Despite our efforts, the Board, President Cheng, and the team they appointed, have made clear they are not interested in our proposals.

Let’s see what they have to say at our next meeting, Thursday, November 18And join us on December fourth at Governor Lamont’s mansion to protest the destruction of Connecticut higher education!

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