MSCA Board Explains its Decision on Westfield Separation Incentive

Dear Librarians and Full-Time Faculty at Westfield State University,

As you know, at the September Board of Directors meeting, the MSCA voted not to authorizing the bargaining team to enter mid-term negotiations for a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) at Westfield State University. This vote was not taken lightly as we understand that it would provide a benefit to members who may have been considering retirement or resignation at this time. However, there were several key issues the Board measured in its decision: the earlier refusal from the COP to allow the Salem agreement to be offered at all campuses; the timing of the negotiations in relation to successor contract bargaining; and concerns about eliminating tenure-track lines across the nine state universities.

As you are aware, the MSCA Board of Directors authorized the bargaining team to negotiate a VSIP at Salem State University this summer. In those negotiations the bargaining team pushed hard for that agreement to be open to all universities subject to their Board of Trustee’s approval. The team also pushed to have the agreement available for up to three years. This seemed a useful approach, avoiding requests to negotiate individual deals at each university and ensuring that the benefit would be available to as many members as possible. Management’s refusal to accept these conditions led the bargaining team to require inclusion of a ratification vote from membership in the Incentive. Management’s stark refusal of our proposal makes this request from Westfield problematic. In addition to being costly and time-consuming, the precedent of asking the MSCA to negotiate individually with each campus at their whim is a tactic that undermines our union’s collective voice.

The timing of the Westfield request also presented difficulties as it came just ten days after the Incentive Program for Salem was ratified by the membership, and as the bargaining team was preparing to meet to prepare for successor negotiations. The team is also negotiating the impact of the Paid Medical and Family Leave Act. An additional set of negotiations limits resources to the important work already underway. Management is free to bring forward a VSIP proposal in successor negotiations that will begin in January.

Finally, the context in which the bargaining team negotiated the VSIP for Salem was one of significant financial need and steep declines in enrollment with potential effects on programs and faculty/librarian retention. The circumstances at Westfield do not seem to be of a similar sort. The Board is concerned about diminishing tenure-track lines for faculty and librarians without a demonstrated financial need, particularly as we face growing pressure around enrollment issues and rhetoric about “right-sizing the faculty.”  The Board feels we must guard against management’s efforts to treat financial problems as stemming from too many faculty/librarian positions rather than administrative growth and fiscal mismanagement.

For these reasons, the Board has taken a cautious view regarding the Westfield State University request.

While these considerations resulted in a “no” vote from the Board, it is important to recognize that this vote does not preclude future action. The Board remains committed to requests if the circumstances at any state university warrant.  In the meantime management and the union can make proposals on separation incentives in successor negotiations.

We hope that this helps to provide some explanation and clarity for our decision.

In solidarity,
The MSCA Board of Directors