UO Administration sweetens offer in response to GTFF’s impasse declaration

My quick read is that this still amounts to real cuts in wages (for many if not most GEs) and in health benefits (for all GE’s):

Dear Faculty Colleagues,
Just a note to share with you the university’s latest offer in negotiations with GTFF. I’m forwarding a copy of an email update from the ELR bargaining team that was sent today to academic leadership. I wanted to make sure all faculty members have the most current information. An overview of the package is available on the GTFF bargaining webpage. If you have questions, contact Peter Fehrs, lead negotiator, by submitting an email to uoelr@uoregon.edu.
Thanks and best wishes.
[Provost Patrick Phillips]

 

**Sent on Behalf of Missy Matella**
Dear Colleagues,
While the University of Oregon and GTFF continue in the cooling-off period following impasse, we are committed to keeping you informed about negotiations and strike preparation. This email provides you with important information about the university’s most current offer to the GTFF. Information and instructions about campus continuity planning for a possible GTFF strike will be forthcoming in a separate email.
Graduate employees are vital to the teaching and research mission of every college, school, department, and center on our campus. As both students and employees, they fill a unique role within our university, and it is imperative that we provide them with the institutional support they need to be successful here at the UO and the training they require for their future. We value and appreciate our graduate employees and are committed to providing them with a fair and equitable employment contract. Negotiations will continue as we work to reach a settlement. The next mediation session is scheduled for October 8.

University’s current proposal

This is a lengthy email, but at this point in the bargaining process, it is important that you have complete information accessible in a single communication. Before delving into the university’s latest offer detailed below, I want to highlight several important points:
  • Salary – We have agreed to the GTFF’s salary proposal for the third year of the contract: 3% for GEs at the minimum and 1.5% for GEs above the minimum. The university’s offer increases GE minimum salaries in the first two years of the contract: 2.5% in year one, 2.75% in year two. It also includes a 1.5% salary increase for GEs not at minimums in each year of the contract. The increases offered to GEs at the minimums are higher than the scheduled increases for OAs and faculty. More information about the GE’s total compensation package is available on the HR website.
  • Health care – The university’s latest health insurance proposal offers two options.Option One: Increase UO’s current contribution by 5% this academic year.
    Coupled with premium discounts available through the insurance company and the GTFF Trust’s approximate $500,000 cash reserve, our offer would provide the funds needed for GEs to maintain their current health insurance, without any benefit changes or premium increases this year. UO has offered to further increase its contribution in the second and third year of the contract while continuing to cover the 5% increase implemented in year one. More information about health insurance, including a comparison to other UO employees health plans, is available on the HR website.Option Two: Cost share premium increases with the GTFF.
    Premium increases below 2% would be shared at the rate in the current contract (95% UO, 5% GTFF). Increases beyond 2% would be cost-shared at different rates based on the amount of the premium increase.
  • The shift – We have fully moved off the shift. Our latest offer does not include shifting money from health insurance or fees and into GE salaries. The university moved off the shift in previous mediation offers in response to the interests and needs highlighted by the GTFF at the bargaining table.
  • Shared interests – The university and the GTFF have many shared interests including supporting families and diversity and inclusion. These interests have resulted in several tentative agreements highlighted below, including for the first time, paid family leave for GEs and increased funds available for childcare.

Last Best Offer—Salary, health insurance, fees, and other shared interests

Salary
The university’s latest offer aligns with the last proposal received from the GTFF. We match their minimum GE salary request of a 3% increase in the third year of the contract. Here is a comparison of the latest salary offers from both sides: 
GTFF offer
3% increase to minimum GE salaries each year of the contract

1.5% increase to all other GE salaries each year of the contract
The previous proposal was 4% increase to minimums only.

 

UO offer
Year One:
2.5% increase to minimum GE salaries
1.5% increase GE salaries above minimum
Year Two:
2.75% increase to minimum GE salaries
1.5% increase GE salaries above minimum
Year Three:
3% increase to minimum GE salaries
1.5% increase to GE salaries above minimum

Other employee group salary increases

  • Service Employee International Union (SEIU) employees: 3% in year one, 2.10% in year two
  • Tenure-track Faculty (FY20): 1.625% merit pool and 0.5% external equity pool for a combined 2.125%
  • Career Faculty (FY20): 2.125% merit pool
  • Officers of Administration (FY20): 2.125% merit pool
Health Insurance
The university has greatly increased its health insurance offer over the last two months. It has moved from reducing its current contribution to health insurance and shifting that money into salaries, to increasing the university’s current health care contribution in each year of the contract.
It is important to note that, currently, the university contributes significantly more to GE health insurance than our AAU peers. UO’s latest offer would continue to be twice as generous compared to other institutions.
Additionally, the GTFF Trust has the autonomy to choose the health insurance package that makes the most sense for its members. The trust’s board, comprised primarily of GTFF members, makes decisions about health insurance carriers and coverages while the university has, historically, provided 95% of the financing. The university’s latest offer seeks to align the impact of health insurance choices with the authority to make health insurance renewal decisions.
The latest offer includes two options:
Option One: Increase UO’s current contribution by 5% this academic year with incremental increases in additional years.
  • AY 2019-20: 5% increase to current contribution
    Although the parties are still bargaining, the GTFF Trust has already signed a health insurance contract that increases premiums by 7% this academic year. This leaves a difference of 2%, or $204,853, between the cost of their renewal and the university’s latest offer. To cover this difference, the GTFF Trust could use a $120,000 premium discount offered by their insurance company and apply funds from its current cash reserve of approximately $500,000. Alternatively, the GTFF Trust could choose to increase its members’ contributions to cover the difference.
  • AY 2020-21 and AY 2021-22: increase current contribution rate by an additional 1% per year
    (The 1% increase each year is in addition to carrying forward the value of the 5% increase implemented in AY 2019-2020).

    It is hard to predict future premium increases. To the extent UO’s contribution does not cover future premium increases, the GTFF Trust can apply its reserve fund to offset those costs. The GTFF Trust’s consultant also offered several changes to benefits that would result in decreased costs, while continuing to offer high quality health insurance—including only providing access to alternative health care options, like massages and acupuncture, when deemed medically necessary, and changing deductibles from $100 to $200. These changes would align with other UO employees health plans.
Option Two: Cost share premium increases with the GTFF.
Premium increases below 2% would be shared at the rate in the current contract (95% UO, 5% GTFF). Increases beyond 2% would be cost-shared at different rates based on the amount of the premium increase.
The Shift—No longer shifting dollars from health insurance or fees to salary
The university is fully off the shift. The university is no longer seeking to change the graduate employee tuition and fees structure to align with AAU peer institutions by raising the cost of fees and offsetting the increase by increasing salaries. Likewise, the latest offer does not include shifting money from health insurance into GE salaries.
Other Shared Interests—Childcare support, paid family leave, diversity and inclusion, and summer hiring
In addition to the health insurance, salary, and fee proposals described above, our latest offer also addresses interests we share with GTFF—and all of our employees—relating to family support, diversity, and inclusion. Our shared interests have resulted in several tentative agreements, such as paid family leave. With these interests in mind, the university reasserts prior offers that support students and families and promote summer hiring. More information about these agreements and proposals is available on the HR website
We will continue to bargain to reach a resolution that meets the needs of our entire university community and fulfills our responsibility to be a good steward of tuition dollars and public funds. We are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement with GTFF through ongoing mediation and will continue to work with university management and the union toward that goal.
Our communications efforts will include an email to department heads. We will also be emailing faculty directly as part of our ongoing effort to keep them informed.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please visit the GTFF bargaining webpage or contact Peter Fehrs, lead negotiator, at uoelr@uoregon.edu.
Best regards,
Missy Matella
Senior Director, Employee and Labor Relations
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