Monday, September 30, 2013

New HEO Time Sheets are an Assault on Professionalism

The PSC represents thousands of professional staff across CUNY, including over 100 here at Brooklyn College. These members serve as Higher Education Officers (HEO’s). HEOs work in the registrar’s office, financial aid, run programs, advise students, and perform a variety of administrative roles such as managing outcomes assessment and international study.

As with many other people working at CUNY, they have been subjected to overloads, speedups, and low pay over the last few decades. More recently they have been on the front lines of implementing the two  major CUNY Central initiatives, Pathways and CUNY First, while chronically understaffed.

About 10 years ago some HEO’s began to complain that they were being forced to work beyond their contractual obligation of 35 hours a week. There have always been periods, such as registration time, when people were expected to temporarily work longer hours in exchange for comp time. More recently, however, these expectations have grown and the comp time hasn’t always been forthcoming. In addition, people in many HEO title s are legally entitled to extra overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours, according to federal labor laws. CUNY was refusing to pay this. The PSC sued in federal court over CUNY's violation of the FSLA. We won back pay and legal fees against CUNY for their failure to pay time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 hours for "non-exempt" employees, who are generally Asst. to HEO and some HEO Assistants.  At about the same time, a group of HEO’s at LaGuardia Community College filed a grievance that resulted in an arbitration decision against CUNY in 2007. The decision required CUNY established a procedure for comp time for work beyond 35 hours for all HEO’s. This new system is complicated and there are many case by case negotiations required to implement it.

One aspect of this new arrangement is that mechanisms needed to be created to document the working of extra hours for the purposes of either accruing comp time or overtime. From the beginning of this process the PSC accepted that the employer has a legal right to ask employees to document their time. The union has insisted, however, that CUNY management negotiate the process for documenting time with us and that it not be onerous or intrusive, in keeping with the professional status of our members.

Unfortunately, and consistent with CUNY’s current top down and deprofessionalizing management style, CUNY has unilaterally implemented a new time sheet system for HEOs and CLTs without consulting the union. This new system is both onerous and intrusive, as well as inefficient and inaccurate. The new time sheets require extensive documentation of exact times that people report to their offices, go to lunch, and leave. It does not take account of the fact that some HEOs often work outside their offices, attending meetings on campus or even at other CUNY campuses and so are not “at their desks” to sign in. The time sheets require that people deduct time for lunch, even though some HEOs are regularly given assignments that force them to work through lunch. Even more outrageous is that the software is designed to prevent people from being able to record more than 35 hours in a week unless a supervisor has preauthorized it.

This new system is time consuming and inefficient. Time sheets are filled out either manually or electronically then submitted to managers, who have to reenter the data into CUNY first.

CUNY wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to penalize and micro manage HEO’s and CLTs but they don’t want to pay them for the work they actually perform. This is also part of a broader agenda to deprofessionalize our members across the board. CUNY management seems to hold most of us in contempt, they ignore the academic judgment of the faculty, in favor of a Board of Trustees that is almost totally lacking in academic credentials and appointed primarily to manage cut backs and streamlining.  Adjuncts are treated with appalling disrespect. Forced to reapply every semester for positions some have held for decades, being expected to show total flexibility while being denied access to unemployment insurance and any kind of job security.

HEO’s are outraged by this move. Hundreds have signed up to organizing committees across the university to fight this assault on their professional status. Last week the University-wide Academic Advising Council Regarding passed the following resolution denouncing the new system:

Resolution of the University-wide Academic Advising Council Regarding CUNY’s New Timekeeping Procedures

September 23, 2013

Whereas CUNY’s Central Administration is implementing a new rigid and cumbersome timekeeping process across the University for HEOs and CLTs without prior consultation with the Professional Staff Congress or the CUNY college human resources directors;


Whereas the new timekeeping process is completely impractical for accommodating the variables that go into the work day for professional staff at a public university;


Whereas the new timekeeping process is tantamount to assembly-line workers “punching a clock” and is therefore immensely demoralizing to professional staff members;


Be It Resolved that the University-wide Academic Advising Council strongly opposes the new timekeeping process and urges the University to maintain the current timekeeping methods.

Faculty and Professional Staff union leaders have begun meeting with local college presidents to express their dismay over the situation and the union’s leadership has spoken directly to the Chancellor about this, pointing out that it will take a major reworking of this problem to restore the morale and confidence of the professional staff.  In the coming weeks you will be hearing more about how you can support HEO’s in their efforts to fight this system. It’s essential to all of us that CUNY management get the message that they cannot just unilaterally impose their will on our members and expect to get away with it.

From CUNY First, to Pathways, to the system of time sheets, it’s time we start asking some tougher questions about who is really running CUNY and what their motivations are. Respecting the professional judgment of our members and working collaboratively and constructively for a better CUNY doesn’t seem to be on their agenda.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What will it Take to Get a New Contract?

The PSC presented CUNY management with its primary demands 3 years ago. Three years is too long to wait for serious negotiations. Part of the problem is that CUNY management has to answer to the City and State Governments, which have not been interested in serious negotiations as they pursue a politics of austerity in which unionized workers are asked to work more for less, while billions in tax breaks are handed out to the real estate and financial industries
The CUNY Board of Trustees is supposed to oversee the management of CUNY on behalf of the Governor and Mayor, who appoint them. Since the Governor and the Mayor are our ultimate bargaining partners, especially on financial matters, it’s imperative that they know what the faculty are demanding at that rank and file members are dissatisfied.

Over the last few years serious questions have been raised about the suitability of our trustees and their numerous instances of failing to do what’s best for CUNY and its students and employees.  From demagogic attacks on CUNY allies like Tony Kushner, to the implementation of Pathways against the clear and overwhelming opposition of the faculty we have seen the scandalous shortcomings of this Board.

At the Monday, September 30th Board of Trustees meeting at Baruch, we have a chance to send them a clear message that the faculty and professional staff demand a decent contract that serves the best interests of our members and the institution.

With the election of a new democratic mayor on the horizon, there is a real possibility of winning some advances in the next contract, but this will only happen if CUNY management and the Board of Trustees see a united and mobilized faculty.

Please join us at Baruch College (Lexington and 25th) on Monday, September 30th at 3:30 to let the Board of Trustees know that we want a new contract with more than just zeros in it.

Please let us know if you can attend by filling out this web form or emailing PSC organizing Director Deirdre Brill: or myself: