7/17/2013: The economic news for UO couldn’t be better. UO got all its expected state funding, the tuition increase, and permission to let Moffitt keep accumulating reserves above the normal 15% ceiling. She’s up to 17% now, OSU has something like 8%. The legislature even kicked in more money to offset part of the tuition increase on our in-state students. We’ll see how much Gottfredson increases his raise proposal from the 10.5% it has been sitting at since June 6, when they told us they wouldn’t go higher until these issues were resolved.
Here’s the faculty union report on yesterday’s session, where the administration refused to promise they’d do anything to compensate the faculty if Kitzhaber takes back the 6% PERS/ORP pickup:
Bargaining Update – July 16, 2013 Negotiations
Yesterday’s bargaining session was marked by progress, though halting and tentative.
Right at the beginning we were able to resolve two difficult issues. We agreed that we will have the right to communicate with union members as long as that communication does not unduly interfere with university operations, students, or other university employees. We also agreed on specific locations on campus at which we can hold union meetings.
We further agreed that both bargaining unit faculty and university administrators will be bound by all duly adopted university policies and published unit policies – present and future. Moreover, unwritten practices at the university will continue, unless they contradict a duly adopted policy. This means that all faculty can expect that university policies can be enforced through the grievance procedure and cannot be ignored or changed at the whim of any administrator. This agreement accomplishes a major goal of the union – enforceable policies at the UO.
Unfortunately, our smooth progress hit a stumbling block when it was the university administration’s turn to present proposals. They gave us proposals on Fringe Benefits, Sabbatical, Retirement (PERS), and Release Time, none of which were changed from their previous round of proposals. This, on a day the administration complained that we do not compromise in our negotiations. Needless to say, we were dismayed at the lack of progress after a healthy run of cooperative compromise.
Perhaps the most illustrative, and certainly most frustrating, example of their recalcitrance at the table was their proposal on PERS. We had proposed for PERS (and related retirement programs) to continue as is, with this caveat: that should the Legislature at some future time decide to end the 6% pick up, there would be an automatic 6% increase in faculty salaries that would automatically be deposited, tax-free, into faculty PERS accounts. We proposed language similar to language found in almost every other faculty union contract in the state. We asked that, should the Legislature do the unthinkable, then the faculty be made whole, just like other faculties across the state. And this would be accomplished at no net cost to the administration.
In rejecting our PERS proposal they initially told us that the very minimal language we proposed would never appear in a finished agreement. We were informed in no uncertain terms that the administration was not interested in our proposal and was not interested in bargaining in these negotiations over the issue. Their argument elicited a negative reaction from our team.
After some further conversation, the administration was persuaded that perhaps the standard PERS language could be allowed to appear in the finished agreement, but that it would need to be part of a larger conversation about economics. We reaffirmed to the administration team that we are always prepared to engage in back and forth to find workable solutions for any issue.
The day was not, however, all bluster and bloviation. We had a very positive conversation about the development of policies and procedures at the department level. We discussed ways we might be able to provide additional tuition waivers to family members of faculty. Our conversation about the assignment and review of academic classifications at the UO seemed productive and could lead to a helpful agreement.
We also reintroduced two Articles that were part of the larger conversation we had as a faculty when United Academics was first formed. We proposed that the Union and the University Administration work together to develop a university goal on the ratio of the non-tenure-track faculty to tenure-track faculty – an issue that both parties agree is a strong concern with no easy solutions. We also proposed that there be an advisory committee of research faculty who can help the Vice President of Innovation and Research to develop policies related to overhead rates and disbursements. Both of these proposals were received without objection.
Although it was an up-and-down day at the bargaining table, we remain positive that we are on the cusp of a very solid contract for the bargaining unit faculty at the UO and are looking forward to the three all-day sessions we have scheduled next week. As always, we invite you to join us. You can always check the Events page on the United Academics webpage (http://uauoregon.org/system/6) for exact days and times. On Monday, July 22, at UA’s request, we will be starting at 11 a.m.
For those of you looking for concrete salary news, you’ll have to wait until next week. The University Administration didn’t come prepared with a response to our comprehensive salary proposal of June 6. At the end of the session, though, they told us that they would bring back all of the economic components of bargaining – salary, fringe benefits, health insurance, PERS, sabbatical, and release time for union officers – as a package next week. We look forward to receiving it as much as you look forward to reading about it.