Faculty Union responds to Admin’s half-baked buyout scheme

Under the latest PERS reform, UO now has to pay into PERS for administrators like Brad Shelton and Lorraine Davis (yes, of course Lorraine’s still on the payroll) who are double dipping on salary and retirement. That change applies to faculty as well, substantially increasing the benefit to UO from getting older Tier 1 faculty to retire outright, rather than go on reduced FTE assignments.

You’d think the administration would recognize this, but instead they want to reduce faculty incentives to retire. Weird. The message from the union bargaining team today:

UA wants you to control your plans for retirement.

Executive Summary:
The administration presented their retirement/buyout proposal. It would give the administration complete control over when faculty could be bought out.

Bargaining is suspended for the foreseeable future. The UA office is closed until at least Monday, March 30. Officers and staff are working remotely and continue to be available at info@uauoregon.org.

Summary:

On Thursday, we had our tenth bargaining session. The administration brought three proposals and we presented one.

Many of the proposals and ideas we have discussed in bargaining so far have dealt with the issue of who has control of our working lives – we faculty or the administration. Our salary proposal was a combination of cost-of-living increases, merit raises, and equity adjustments distributed largely based on faculty-developed policies. The administration, on the other hand, proposed large pools of money to be distributed by deans and the Provost with little or no regulation. Our proposal on layoffs had a faculty panel to review administration claims of the need to terminate faculty for financial or academic reasons; the administration proposal left all decision-making and review in the hands of deans and HR. The administration proposed they be allowed to order faculty to cover for striking workers; we proposed that that choice be left to individual faculty. We proposed that instructional faculty could earn recognition for their labors; the administration proposed that the Provosts could grant recognition to whom they chose.

Our conversation on Thursday was no different. Whereas we had proposed a new Tenure Relinquishment System that had a prescribed five-year reduction in duties and a buyout plan that allowed tenured faculty to decide when they wanted to stop working for the university, the administration’s counterproposal would allow the administration to control when a buyout happened. While the administration team offered a lame reason for suggesting that tenured faculty could not claim a buyout when they wanted,* it was evident that the real issue was control.

Under their proposal, a tenured faculty member who entered into their Tenure Transition Program (TTP) would be entitled to three years of appointment at 0.66 FTE, 0.5 FTE, and 0.33 FTE. The administration could end the faculty member’s employment at any time by paying them the salary for the year they were in – or the lower salary for the upcoming year if they waited to inform the faculty member of the imposed buyout until after April 15.

A faculty member in the TTP could request a buyout, but whether it happened or not would be completely up to the administration. Faculty could, of course, choose to walk away without a buyout, but the structured buyout system would be under complete administration control.

We formed a union because we wanted a stronger collective voice in how our university was run, so it is not surprising that many of the issues we discuss at the table involve issues of control. It remains disappointing that the administration is so resistant to partnering with faculty. We believe the faculty at UO have a demonstrable history of making good decisions and sharing governance for the betterment of university life. We believe the history of UA demonstrates a commitment to creative problem-solving and a desire to make UO strong. Administration’s continued desire to ignore this history and attempt to claim ever more power for themselves is worrisome. We genuinely believe the university is better when faculty are key decision makers about how best to fulfill  our academic mission.

The parties agreed to suspend bargaining until we figure out what is happening with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The administration team has not yet responded to our proposals on:

  • reasonable working temperatures,
  • lowered course loads for Career faculty,
  • improved layoff procedures,
  • ASA money for all faculty,
  • student support,
  • information about negotiating a starting package for new hires,
  • improved parental leave,
  • performance improvement plan,
  • faculty involvement in the institutional hiring plan, and
  • permanence of work location.

*The administration argued that it might be illegal for a faculty member to receive a buyout payment, but not do any work for that pay. Their own proposal, however, would allow a faculty member to request a buyout, and if approved by the administration, receive pay for no work. How getting permission from the employer resolved the legal question was not explained, but it was not a real reason to stop faculty from choosing their own buyout schedule.

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