Diane Dietz is back with report on faculty and staff bargaining

Where the hell has she been? Online in the RG here, and in print tomorrow. UO President Mike Schill and the United Academics faculty move forward together, into the broad, sunlit uplands:

The United Academics faculty union at the University of Oregon decided to keep its eyes on the prize of a better, donor-funded university — and so tentatively settled a new three-year contract in mid-August, well ahead of the start of school.

“It takes away a potentially contentious issue as our new university president embarks on the important work of raising some big bucks to support our academic mission,” said Michael Dreiling, union president and associate professor of sociology. …

“I am delighted that the faculty and administration were able to reach this agreement,” [UO President Schill] said in a prepared statement. “The collaborative and collegial process that led to this agreement is a model for other universities. It reflects the hunger of our faculty to move forward to a new era of cooperation as we seek to transform our great university’s academic and research profile.”

Meanwhile things are a lot tougher for the SEIU union that represents the hard-working and underpaid staff who keep UO from dissolving into the abyss:

The universities’ team declared an impasse on Aug. 12; the sides had until end-of-day Wednesday to submit their final offers to the Oregon Employment Relations Board.

After a 30-day “cooling off” period — Sept. 19 — the union can strike (provided it has given 10 day notice) and the universities can impose their final offer on the union.

Classes begin on Sept. 28.

The union last stuck in 1995, and the strike lasted for one week.

The sides will continue to meet to try to find a resolution. Sessions are scheduled for Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 at Portland State University and Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at the University of Oregon.

“We’ll continue to negotiate, but I’m not hopeful,” Nisenfeld said.

The negotiations are more complicated than formerly when the chancellor was the chief decision maker, Nisenfeld said.

“Now they have to coordinate the effort between the seven presidents of the universities. I would say it’s like herding cats, but I have more respect for cats,” he said.

Also see former Emerald reporter Gordon Friedman’s story in the SJ on the just ratified deal for the rest of SEIU’s state employees, here:

Among the most notable aspects of the new contract is the PERS pickup, which is being eliminated. Instead of the state making the mandatory six-percent contribution to PERS accounts on behalf of workers, the contributions will be made as pre-tax deductions by the workers themselves beginning November 2016.

At that time employee pay will increase 6.95 percent.

The impact of ending the PERS pick-up on worker take-home pay is nil, officials said. The 6.95 percent pay increase which takes effect as the PERS pickup ends is meant to offset worker contributions to PERS and any additionally incurred payroll taxes.

The SEIU also sees this policy change as being advantageous for employees who are members of the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan, since having a higher average salary benefits their pension. Additionally, all benefits based on wages could increase.

This compromise on the PERS pickup is a substantial development because it ends the pickup without employees incurring costs; past attempts to kill the six percent pick-up amounted to what would have been pay cuts — the root cause of the 1995 strike of state and higher education workers.

The SEIU contract also includes a 1.48-percent cost-of-living increase effective this December and a 2.75-percent increase in December 2016.

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