More than 6,000 professors, secretaries, janitors, and other University of Massachusetts employees are demanding that president Robert Caret pay them raises the university agreed to but now says it can’t afford.
Workers at four UMass campuses are caught in the middle of a disagreement between Beacon Hill and the university over whether money was already set aside for raises that would total about $13 million this year.
Workers showed their frustration Wednesday by marching across the UMass Boston campus to Chancellor J. Keith Motley’s office, chanting and waving signs that read “a deal’s a deal.”
“What do we want?” they chanted. “Raises!”
“When do we want them?” “Now!”
Twenty-four unions on the Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Amherst campuses negotiated new contracts in 2014, according to the university. Eighteen were ratified last fall and winter, and six are still in negotiations.
Caret’s office said the Legislature did not provide money to pay for the raises.
“Funding for these new contracts does not exist in our current budget, and asserting that it does does not make it so,” university spokesman Bob Connolly said in a statement. “We remain determined, however, to work to bring about the funding these contracts require.”
The budget office under then-Governor Deval Patrick twice sent letters to the Legislature saying the raises should be paid out of the $519 million allocated to UMass for fiscal year 2015. Governor Charlie Baker agreed with that in recently filed budget documents.
A lawmaker took a slightly different position Wednesday. Representative Tom Sannicandro, an Ashland Democrat who chairs the Joint Committee on Higher Education, agreed the Legislature did not fund the contracts, but said UMass should nevertheless pay them out of its current budget.
“Unfortunately, I think we’ve put UMass in a position where this is the money you get,” said Sannicandro.
The $519 million allowed the five-campus system to freeze tuition and fees for the second consecutive year. State funds make up one-sixth of UMass’ total $3 billion budget.
Workers at the UMass Boston meeting Wednesday said 3 percent raises are small but necessary.
“Everything is going up except for my pay,” said Scott Gilbert, a senior network engineer who has worked for the university for eight years.
Gilbert and another employee said they took pay cuts when they left private sector jobs to work for the university, but did so for a better quality of life.
They criticized the fact that Caret recently negotiated a new UMass contract for himself, before announcing his departure for a job in Maryland, that would have paid him $952,000 by July 2018.
As protestors chanted Wednesday, the administration sent Care Corner-Dolloff, director of employee relations, to address union members, some of whom jeered as she spoke.
“I totally get what you’re saying,” Corner-Dolloff said.
“UMass Boston highly values its faculty and staff, and we are continuing to work with our colleagues and the UMass system to resolve outstanding union contracts and their implementation,” UMass Boston spokesman DeWayne Lehman said in a statement.
Many UMass unions are part of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, whose president said more demonstrations will occur if the raises aren’t paid.
“We thought we were on the same team working for public higher education and then it turns out that we’re not, and we try to make sense of that,” said MTA president Barbara Madeloni.