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Classified Staff Negotiations
Information About Negotiations
The OUS bargaining team firmly believes in transparent negotiations, but recognizes that not everyone can attend the actual negotiation sessions. So to bring the negotiations to those who cannot attend, we will post our summaries of the negotiations along with occasional links to proposals or tentative agreements. Hopefully our posts will have the effect of opening negotiations to everyone.
Below is the schedule of negotiations that the parties have agreed to so far and summaries of the negotiation sessions that have already occurred. Please be sure to check back here for summaries of future negotiations.
February 20 and 21: Western Oregon University
March 12 and 13: University of Oregon
March 28 and 29: Portland State University
April 18 and 19: Oregon State University (Corvallis)
May 2 and 3: Oregon State University (Newport)
May 16 and 17: Portland State University
June 6 and 7: University of Oregon
June 27 and 28: Southern Oregon University
History In The Making
The OUS and SEIU made history on Wednesday by marking the first time ever where tentative agreements were signed on the very first day of negotiations. The OUS recognizes that the changes both parties agreed to were minor, “housekeeping” matter, but they were an attempt to make the contract clearer and easier to understand.
Negotiations started great. The parties were cordial to one another, the air was light, and both sides committed to working hard to reach a fair agreement. After team introductions both spokespersons opened with remarks setting forth their priorities and acknowledging the tough issues facing not only the classified employees, but all people who are vested in making the System better for students.
Once remarks were completed, the parties got right down to work with presentation of the Union’s proposals. Representing a change from the past, the Union presented almost all of its proposals on the first day of negotiations. After separate team lunches, the OUS presented the Union with their initial comments on the Union’s proposals and vowed to present more formal counterproposals at the next negotiation session.
The OUS then presented its proposals, all of which were designed to streamline the contract and make it easier to read and understand. The Union then reviewed the OUS’s proposals and identified several proposals to which they would agree. Once that occurred, it was noted by a Union team member that both parties should sign-off on those proposals so we could claim to be the first set of negotiators to have ever signed tentative agreements on the first day of negotiations.
For the sake of making history, and making the contract clearer, both Rich and Brian, chief labor spokespersons for the Union and the OUS, respectively, sat together and signed the tentative agreements.
It was certainly a great start to these negotiations, one in which the OUS Bargaining Team hopes will continue.
During the second day of bargaining, the OUS presented the Union with many more substantive proposals. After presentation of those proposals the Union determined that more time would be needed to review and address the proposals so the two sides decided to end negotiations at that time.
Wage Floor Both An Interest and A Concern
The OUS and SEIU bargaining teams met March 12 and 13 at the University of Oregon and continued making progress by signing a number of tentative agreements and agreeing to keep several Articles as-is in any new contract that the parties ultimately agree upon.
On the first day of negotiations the OUS bargaining team expressed an interest in, as well as a concern over, the Union’s economic proposal requiring a wage floor of $2,498. While this proposal is of interest, we explained to the Union that there are concerns that raising to the federal guideline may result in loss of other valuable assistance, such as food stamp eligibility, or housing and child care subsidies. We’re concerned that by doing the right thing our employees may lose so much more in the end. So, we asked the Union to talk to you about this and see whether doing the right thing is really the most beneficial thing for potentially affected employees.
UPDATE: OUS proposed raising monthly salaries to $2,500. See the April 18 & 19 negotiations below.
Here some other highlights from the negotiations that occurred at UO:
The OUS agreed that seniority should be used, at least every other year, when determining who should receive a holiday off if two employees request the same time off.
The OUS proposed that discrimination cases be handled through arbitration, not the courts. Arbitration is less costly than litigation, but the Union said “it would not be appropriate” for them to represent you in discrimination cases, so the Union rejected this.
- The OUS would like the ability to use performance evaluations as evidence in the disciplinary process. This allows employees to use good evaluations to defend against unnecessary actions taken by “bully bosses”. The Union rejected this.
- The OUS proposed a new six month trial service for employees who transfer from one university to another. This allows the employee adequate time to adjust to the position and environment.
- The OUS proposed that you have a right to request that “incorrect material” be removed from your official personnel file and that your request to remove the material would remain in the file if the material was actually correct. This gives employees a right to have their position documented in the official personnel file.
- The OUS proposed to clarify the type of leave one can use during a temporary interruption of work, because some employees were abusing the use of sick leave which is not fair to everyone else. The OUS proposal would continue the use of preapproved sick leave, such as FMLA, during temporary interruptions.
During the two days of negotiations the teams spent quite a bit of time engaging each other on their specific proposals, asking questions and clarifying language. Both sides truly sought to better understand the issues respective underlying interests. This was very encouraging, because there is a great deal of work ahead for both teams.
The focus moving forward cannot be to insist on language that does not directly affect all employees’ wages, hours and working conditions. We must stay focused on the tasks at hand—making our system sustainable for all Oregonians and partnering to find ways to be more efficient and keep costs down for all students.
We look forward to continuing to work towards reaching an agreement at the next negotiation session on March 28 and 29.
Union Doesn’t Address The OUS’s Concern
Negotiations continued on March 28 and 29 with both teams meeting at the Chancellor’s Office in Portland. During the first day of negotiations Chancellor Rose stopped in to visit both teams and thank all members for their dedication and service to the System.
The teams made a good deal of progress by better understanding each sides’ positions on a number of issues and signing off on various tentative agreements, some of which were substantive (Article 36, Limited Duration Appointments; Article 43, Leaves with Pay) and others were an attempt to make any new contract clearer for all to understand.
At the outset of negotiations we asked the Union if it had consulted with its members to determine whether a wage floor would have an unintentional impact of creating additional hardships for low-income earners, such as loss of food stamp eligibility, or housing and child care subsidies. Unfortunately, the Union’s response led us to believe that it did not ask you whether a wage floor would have an unfortunate impact. The Union’s response was troubling because we need to work together here to make sure we do the right thing for our employees.
Contract Or Law Already Addresses Union’s Issues
The Union attempted to address certain healthy workplace initiatives by proposing new language for the contract; however there already is contract language, policies, or people in positions that address these initiatives. For instance:
- Workload stress mitigation can be managed through the Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) and certain leave such as family medical (“FMLA”) and personal.
- Telecommuting is addressed through policies in place at each University or through the OUS telework policy.
- Adjusted work schedules can be discussed through Article 57, Joint Communication/Consultation Committees.
- Proactive ergonomics are already a reality at each of the OUS institutions. Each institution has at least one person designated to work with employees on ergonomic issues. In addition, each campus has a safety committee.
- Overwork penalty pay for exempt employees is not supported by the Bureau of Labor and Industries, because they are not eligible for overtime pay given their exempt status.
Given the numerous resources already in place to address the Union’s healthy workplace issue, we didn’t see the need to add additional (and sometimes expensive) resources.
In addition, the Union proposed that the parties hire an arbitrator to resolve disputes about copies of information requests. We rejected this, because the law provides guidance on complying with information requests and hiring an arbitrator at a cost of around $1,000 per day to resolve a $50 copy dispute just isn’t a wise way to spend students’ tuition dollars.
Finally, discipline for failing to report suspected child abuse you become aware of at work is not new. And we did not feel it was necessary to add language to the contract requiring training when universities already touch on this issue either through training or employee intake.
Union Continues To Press Permissive Subjects
Okay, so now for the legal mumbo-jumbo. In negotiations there are two types of proposals. One type of proposal is called a mandatory proposal, because it directly affects your wages, benefits, hours, and working conditions. The other type of proposal is called a permissive proposal, because it does not directly affect your wages, benefits, hours or working conditions. When one side presents a permissive proposal, the other side does not have to negotiate over that proposal. Well, the Union has presented several permissive proposals that we have rejected, such as:
- Staffing and Equity Efficiency, which the Union acknowledged in its proposal that the OUS’s current staffing levels are “in balance”.
- Recovering Oregon’s Money, which is about going after big banks allegedly involved in predatory lending, despite the Union investing dues money with alleged predatory lender Morgan Stanley.
The OUS is committed to working on the real issues facing our employees, and less committed to issues that divert us from the tasks at hand and seem manufactured to make headlines. We urge Local 503 to start focusing on the substantive issues, so that we can have a new contract in place by June 30. There are too many critical points that we need to discuss and come to agreement on, and permissive proposals serve only to delay the process.
The next bargaining session will be held on April 18 and 19 at Oregon State University. The OUS will present its remaining proposals, including the economic proposals during that session.
Stay tuned and thanks for visiting the website.
A Challenging Session . . .
The last negotiation session held at Oregon State was, by far, the most challenging session to date. The OUS bargaining team presented proposals that were designed to meet the OUS’s need for flexibility and sustainability within increasingly constrained economic realities for students and campus operations. While the OUS proposals on “bumping rights”, contracting out, and overtime can be perceived to infringe upon union rights, the reality is that there are solid business and economic reasons for presenting the changes.
The current contract includes “bumping rights”. Bumping rights only apply in the unfortunate event of a layoff and operate based on seniority by allowing an employee with greater seniority whose position has been eliminated to “bump” a less senior employee from the position they hold. The employee with less seniority can then elect to “bump” an employee with even less seniority or move to layoff status. While this is the general idea behind “bumping”, there are other details related to bumping which can be read in Article 48 of the contract. Bumping rights have long been a pillar of unions, but they can also contribute to low workplace morale because of the inherent fear that a coworker will move to layoff status—not because of merit, but because of length of service. In an effort to address the morale issue, the OUS proposed that an employee with greater seniority cannot “bump” an employee with less seniority from their position and into layoff. Instead, the OUS proposed that if a layoff has to occur, an employee laid off will be allowed to accept any vacant position on campus, so long as the employee qualifies for the position and the position is no more than five salary ranges below the employee’s current salary. The OUS bargaining team believes this is a fairer way to approach an unfortunate situation.
Contracting out allows universities to contract with outside companies that have expertise in a given area. These companies can sometimes provide a university with significant cost-savings, primarily because they are experts in a certain area and can provide the service more efficiently than the university. As an example, a university is in the business of educating students and while a university will provide dining and housing services, such is not the primary business of a university. There are companies that exclusively provide dining or housing services. They are more efficient in providing these services because it is their business to provide these services. The current contract language restricts a university in being able to immediately realize the potential cost savings. It does this by requiring the university, before contracting out, to spend money and resources to conduct a feasibility study in order to determine whether the use of a contractor can save the university money. Once the study reveals the contractor can save the university money, the Union is able to review the study and offer ways that meet the savings offered by the contractor. If the Union’s offer saves the university roughly the same amount of money or more, the university has to accept the Union’s offer. If the Union’s offer cannot do this, the contractor is hired and the university’s employees become the contractor’s employees (for at least six months) at the same wages and benefits they had while at the university. As a way to save money and resources, the OUS proposed eliminating contract language requiring the feasibility study and Union response because the university is already obligated, under the law, to negotiate with the Union if contracting out occurs. During negotiations the Union can offer alternative plans that save the university money. If the Union cannot save the university money, the employees would remain with the contractor for at least six months and the Union could always choose to organize the contractor and negotiate a separate collective bargaining agreement with the contractor.
The law requires employers to give overtime pay, paid at one and a half times the employee’s hourly rate, for any hours worked in excess of 40 in one week. Unions have often negotiated language that also allows overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 8 hours in one day. The current contract has this language. Overtime pay can become very expensive when it is paid for any time worked in excess of 8 hours. The OUS proposed to discontinue overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 8 in a day, but continue following the law and give overtime pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. This will save universities money, and is a fair offer that recognizes overtime in a way which does not raise equity issues by other employees who do not receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 per week.
The OUS bargaining team fully understands how these proposals can be perceived. These tough economic times call for realistic decisions that require the wise use of funds in ways which recognize that student tuition is paying for these benefits. The decisions made to present these proposals did not come easily or quickly. The OUS bargaining team thoroughly discussed these proposals for the past seven months and, in the end, made a measured decision to propose them in good faith that the Union would understand the serious economic issues the system faces in the wake of keeping it sustainable for all of us—students, classified and unclassified staff, faculty, and many other invested Oregonians. We value the Union’s opinions and recommendations, many of which have led to fruitful discussions during negotiations that ultimately resulted in a number of tentative agreements. We remain optimistic that the Union will continue this dialogue and offer viable proposals that seek to join us in addressing these tough economic issues.
The OUS proposed its initial economic package on April 18. The initial proposal addressed many of the Union’s concerns such as raising employees above the SNAP guidelines of $2,498 per month, elimination of furlough days, cost of living increases and keeping the healthcare model. Here is a snapshot of the initial economic package proposed by the OUS:
No changes to PERS
Eliminate furlough days immediately after signing a new contract
Raise all employees to $2,500 on the salary schedule by the end of the contract
Give all employees a 2.0% cost of living increase by the end contract
Give a step increase in the form of a one-time bonus between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014
Contribute 90% of all healthcare premiums and ask employees to contribute 10%, which is a 5% increase. This additional employee contribution is still less than the average healthcare contribution paid by state and local government unionized employees.
This is the OUS’s initial economic package proposal and we look forward to receiving the Union’s counter proposal on economics.
Progress at the Coast
The OUS and SEIU bargaining teams met May 2 and 3 at Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. At the beginning of the negotiation session, the OUS bargaining team once again acknowledged how the proposals relating to “bumping rights”, contracting out, and overtime may have been perceived, and asked the Union that it be given an opportunity to fully explain the business and economic reasons behind presenting those proposals. The OUS bargaining team felt that it was fair that both sides be given that opportunity. Thus, during the next bargaining session the OUS team will provide these explanations and looks forward to an open and frank discussion.
Thereafter the teams worked constructively and made good progress by tentatively agreeing to changes in seven different Articles or Letters of Agreement. Some of the changes include:
- Reorganizing the Union Rights Article to make it easier to read and understand;
- Removing incorrect material from a personnel file when both HR and the employee agree it is incorrect;
- Requiring a statement of rights to appear on all disciplinary actions;
- Removing investigation material from the personnel file when the investigation does not result in discipline;
- Making clearer how, where and when grievances are filed; and,
- Prohibiting the use of performance evaluations by either side in discipline, grievance and arbitration cases, except where there is a denial of an annual performance increase.
The next bargaining session is at Portland State University on May 16 and 17 and the OUS bargaining team is optimistic that even more progress can be made by building upon the collaboration and good work both teams exhibited in Newport. As always, we appreciate the time and effort of the SEIU and OUS teams.
Continued Progress at Portland State
The OUS and SEIU bargaining teams met May 16 and 17 at Portland State. During negotiations the OUS team shared a number of reasons for presenting proposals on overtime, contracting out, and layoff, including economic, operational, and overall workplace morale issues. Karen Abbott Yelle, a human resource professional from Portland State who is respected across the system, told of her 20-plus years administering the “bumping” rights in the layoff article. Karen has assisted hundreds of employees whose positions have ended because of layoff, 85%-90% of whom did not want to bump because of the difficult and emotional situation that was so often filled with frustration, anger and resentment.
Karen told of the “real personal dilemma” that occurs with “bumping”. How a person needs a job, but does not want to go into a new position at the expense of a colleague, or in some cases, even a close friend. Karen explained that the department receiving the person who is permitted to “bump” has already spent a good deal of time reviewing applications, interviewing, doing reference checks, etc. to fill the position with the candidate they feel is best suited to the position and then that person gets displaced. Moreover, the person being displaced had accepted the position after a good-faith offer was made and, in some cases, may have given up a job to accept the position.
Karen added that depending on the employee, holding the original position that was eliminated could have a significant domino effect caused by “bumping” by having multiple employees and multiple departments involved. This, according to Karen, results in a significant impact and disruption across campus, with employees being fearful that they will be the next one to be bumped.
Karen provided invaluable insight (click here for her full presentation) and the OUS bargaining team stressed the importance of finding common ground to address common interests, and remain optimistic that the discussions at Portland State about the overtime, contracting out and layoff articles will continue in good faith.
During negotiations the teams heard presentations from Early Childhood Associate Teachers and a PSU Locksmith in support of a specific salary increase for those classifications. Regarding the Associate Teachers, the OUS bargaining team noted how its counterproposal to raise the wage floor to a minimum of $2,500 per month by the end of the next contract would greatly assist those in the classification.
Finally, the teams signed tentative agreements involving Article 61 (Education, Training and Development), Article 63 (Inclement Weather), and a Letter of Agreement on Commercial Drivers’ Licenses, which will become an Article in the next contract.
The next bargaining session is June 6 and 7 at the University of Oregon.
The OUS and SEIU bargaining teams met June 6 and 7 at the University of Oregon. While most of the two days of negotiations were set aside to hear thorough presentations by employees in certain classifications requesting specific salary differentials or increases in salary ranges, the parties were able to make progress by tentatively agreeing to language in 11 different Articles and one Letter of Agreement.
Aside from housekeeping changes in some Articles and agreement to continue current contract language in other Articles in the next contract, here are some of the highlights of the language the parties agreed to change in the next contract:
- The Union and employees will not cause or engage in any strike during the term of the next contract;
- When denials are due to operating need or operational requirements management will respond in writing to requests; and,
- Employees elected to the Oregon legislature will receive certain leave without pay to attend to legislative duties.
A number of other proposals regarding language remain on the table and the parties are committed to working through those in upcoming sessions.
The OUS bargaining team recognizes that there has not yet been a full discussion regarding economics since the OUS presented its proposal on April 18. However, we expect that economic discussions will begin during the next session and continue into July. The OUS bargaining team continues to remain optimistic that a fair and equitable settlement can be reached within the next few weeks.
The next bargaining session will occur on June 27th and 28th at Southern Oregon University.