Negotiation Updates

The Universities' 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.

 

Schedule:

February 28 & March 1:   Portland State University.

March 18 & 19:   Western Oregon University.

April 18 & 19:   University of Oregon.

May 2 & 3:   Oregon State University.

May 30 & 31:   University of Oregon.

June 19 & 20:   Western Oregon University.

June 27 & 28:   Portland State University.

July 8 & 9:   Oregon State University.

July 10:  Mediation Filing.

July 22 & 23:   Southern Oregon University (mediated session).

August 5 & 6:   Eastern Oregon University (mediated session).

August 15 & 16:   Western Oregon University (mediated session).

August 16:  Impasse Declared.

September 11, 12, & 13:  Oregon State University (mediated session).

September 18:  Notice of Intent to Strike Filing.

September 23 & 24:  Portland State University (mediated session).

September 26:  Oregon Tech-Wilsonville Campus (mediated session).

 

Summary of Negotiations:

February 28 & March 1.

The parties met for two days on the campus of Portland State University to kick-off the 2019 classified staff negotiations.  On the first day of face-to-face negotiations, each party gave their opening statement.  The Union’s opening statement  focused on three items: 1) seeking a contract that would improve the economic security for all its members by increasing wages and total compensation; 2) achieving greater flexibility in the workplace to improve university sustainability and member work-life balance; and, 3) improving the Union’s access to represented employees in the workplace and during new employee orientation.  The Universities’ opening statement focused on the: 1) increasing costs of public employees’ PERS and PEBB benefits; 2) state’s disinvestment in higher education over the past 30 years;, 3) the harsh economic reality the Universities will face if the Governor’s Recommended Budget is adopted as-is; and, 4) the need for the Universities and Union to work collaboratively toward seeking an increase in state funding at the legislature as well as finding common ground to reach an agreement that is sustainable for the Universities, inasmuch as it keeps access to a college education affordable.

The Union proposed language changes to several Articles, most of which were consistent with its priorities set forth in its opening statement, such as improving the Union’s access to represented employees and achieving greater flexibility in the workplace.  Other Union proposals included increasing the bereavement leave and adding to the categories of those considered immediate family in both the sick leave and bereavement leave Articles.  The Universities’ proposed language changes were aimed at ease of use in reading and viewing the collective bargaining agreement, expanding the opportunity for employees to secure ergonomic equipment beyond what is currently provided, and eliminating the age barrier for one to access pre-retirement counseling leave under Article 45. 

In the closing session of the second day of bargaining, the Universities’ Bargaining Team addressed the spirit of collaboration seen at the table during the two-day session, and the team noted that there were productive discussions between both parties at the table during the presentation of proposals.  In all, the Universities’ Bargaining Team thanked the Union team for its level of collaboration, which seemed to match that which is occurring between the Universities and Union in their effort to work with legislators in Salem to increase public support for the Universities.

The Universities’ Bargaining Team is optimistic that the work of both bargaining teams, as well as stakeholders in Salem, will result in a successful resolution of any issues brought forth to the table. 

The parties are set to meet March 18 and 19 at Western Oregon University in Monmouth

 

March 18 & 19

The parties met March 18 and 19 on the campus of Western Oregon University and both presented a number of proposals.  The Union proposed language changes to, among other things: leaves with pay (seeking sabbatical time for classified employees compensated at 60% of normal pay and benefits) and layoff (clarifying notification procedures and changing the initial determination of whom decides an employee is “position qualified” from the University to the employee).  The Union also provided counter proposals to the Universities’ computer workstations and moving/travel expenses proposals. 

The Universities proposed language changes to a number of Articles including: the term of the agreement (seeking a 4-year agreement with an economic reopener after the second year); personnel files and discipline (to account for discrepancies between the two Articles, and clean up language relating to investigatory suspensions); and, inclement weather (allowing Presidents or their designees to declare a delayed opening as paid).

The parties discussed salary selective presentations, which are presentations by employees in certain classifications the Union proposes to increase the salary range, and decided to schedule those for April 18 and 19 at the University of Oregon. 

 The parties next bargaining session is Thursday and Friday, April 18 and 19 at the University of Oregon.

 

April 18 & 19

The parties continued negotiations on April 18 and 19 at the University of Oregon.  The morning portion of both days were dedicated to salary selective presentations.  Salary selective presentations are presentations by an employee or group of employees in a particular classification which the Union proposes an increase in the salary range.  The presentations covered information related to the employee’s current job, changes in job status of the years, recruitment and retention for the classification (if known to the employee), and comparable market data. 

The Union proposed that the following classifications move from the current salary range to the proposed salary range:

Classification                         Current Salary Range            Proposed Salary Range

Accounting Technicians                     15                                            21

Campus Public Safety Officer            17                                            23

Electrical/CST                                    27                                             30

EH&S Professional 1                          19                                            24

EH&S Professional 2                          24                                            27

EH&S Professional 3                          27                                            30

HVAC Control Tech                          20B                                         25

Library Tech. 3                                   19                                            24

Maintenance Elec.                              17T                                          24T

Plumber                                               23B                                         27

Radiation Protection Tech. 1              19                                            24

Radiation Protection Tech. 2              24                                            27

Radiation Protection Tech. 3              29                                            30

Sr. Reactor Operator                           24                                            27

 

The Universities were extremely impressed with the professionalism of the presentations and the thoroughness to which each presenter went to address the recruitment and retention challenges of their positions and comparable market salary and benefit data.  The Universities will now review the presentations and data to make a well-reasoned and sustainable counter proposal in the near future. 

The Universities put forth proposals relating to 15 Articles.  Some proposals were designed at streamlining the contract so that supervisors and employees could easily identify rights and obligations, such as proposing to move a number of scheduling issues like penalty pay, on-call duty, and temporary interruptions of work to the Article covering schedules.  The Universities also proposed a process for the Universities to move a matter to arbitration in cases in which the University disagrees with the determination in a Step 3case, that reclassification appeals are heard at the university level and not grievable or subject to arbitration, and that intermittent employees must maintain a minimum availability or face removal. 

The Union proposed, among other things, language relating to prior notification of changes in parking rates on campuses, that specific actions be added to the mutual respect article and that it be subject to the grievance procedure if the University fails to address the mutual respect issue, and that a number of letters of agreements be either deleted or extended based on the parties current use of those letters of agreements.

The overall tone of the negotiations continued to be constructive and collaborative.  The Universities look forward to continuing this tone when the parties meet in Corvallis on May 2 and 3 at Oregon State University.

 

May 2  & 3.

The parties met on May 2 and 3 at Oregon State University to continue classified staff negotiations. The Universities presented three Articles, one of which, layoff, attempted to significantly balance the interests of managers who implement the process, the employees going through the layoff process, and the employees and departments affected as a result of the “bumping process”. In addition, the Universities sought to streamline the language relating to layoff so that it can be easily understood by employees and managers. The Universities also proposed language regarding union rights and subcontracting. 

Regarding the layoff article, the Universities proposed giving affected employees their choice of either: 1) being laid-off immediately without moving through the process (this could occur if an employee already has another position since most layoffs are known well in advance); 2) looking for vacancies only without involving the bumping process (some employees choose not to “bump” others from their positions, effectively placing them out of a job and into the layoff process); or, 3) invoking the entire process (viewing vacant positions first, then positions to which the employee could bump another employee). The Universities also streamlined the bumping process and clarified the geographic area language. 

As for union rights, the Universities sought to add language that clarified when approval is needed for union visitation. The language added was taken from a solution the Union and the former Oregon University System arrived at in 2014. Finally, with respect to subcontracting, the Universities proposed that the Union specifically respond to the elements in a University’s feasibility study and allow reduced FTE to be considered as cost savings. As to the reduced FTE, it was noted that often times the subcontracting is being done by a company that specializes in the field and, as a result, can offer a reduction in FTE as part of the overall cost savings measure. 

The Union’s proposals focused on economics. The Union proposed a two-year contract and that the Universities continue full steps in each year of the new contract along with a 5% cost of living adjustment in each year. In addition, the Union proposed that, over the course of the next contract, the Universities add two steps to the salary table and that the current Step 1 and Step 2 be eliminated over that course of time. As for healthcare, the Union asked the Universities to maintain the 5% premium contribution for employees who choose a higher cost plan , and decrease the premium contribution from 3% to 1% for those employees who choose the lowest cost plan in their area. The Union also proposed, among other things, adding an additional personal day and increasing the vacation cap from 250 hours to 350 hours.

According to the Universities’ Bargaining Team, the total cost of the Union’s proposed economic package is approximately $71 million over the next biennium. The Union’s proposal came on the same day that Portland State University issued a public press release that undergraduate resident students could face an 11 percent tuition increase for the next academic year, and the University would need to cut $10 million from its budget unless the State Legislature allocates more funding for higher education. PSU is not alone in their noting a tuition increase combined with millions in university budget cuts; other campuses have noted this publicly, and university boards are also sending letters to the legislature noting the consequences of current budget proposals. These measures are due to the Governor's Recommended Budget for the public universities’ education and general funding offering a zero percent increase from the 2017-19 legislatively adopted budget. At the same time, the Universities expect their basic costs to increase 8.4% over the current biennium. Thus, the Union’s $71 million economic package, when the Universities are facing extremely difficult financial times, is a tough if not impossible set of expectations to meet.

The parties are set to meet May 30 and 31 at the University of Oregon.  Prior to that session, the Universities expect to release their initial economic offer. 

 

May 30 & 31.

The parties continued classified staff negotiations on May 30 and 31 at University of Oregon.  Prior to meeting on May 30, the Universities submitted their initial economic offer by email on the May 28 deadline.  The email statement from the Universities’ lead negotiator to SEIU’s lead negotiator read as follows:

The economic offer attached represents only the current reality of our available funding, not the extent to which we value the work of our classified employees.  We fully recognize that without the dedication of SEIU Local 503, our Universities would not be able to provide comprehensive support to our students, and provide families across Oregon with a path out of poverty through higher education. 

For several of our institutions, state funding through the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) constitutes a significant portion of the overall budget.  In light of this reality, and the fact that state funding appropriation will not be finalized until the end of June, we are forced to provide you with an economic offer that reflects the fact that a significant portion of our budget is still up in the air.  Furthermore, this budget uncertainty is coming at a time when universities face an average of 7.8% to 10% increases for the basic costs this upcoming biennium.  Retirement and healthcare cost increases are placing significant pressure on our budgets, and our ability to address these rising costs is hamstrung by the reality that Oregon is still working to reverse decades of cuts to higher education.  State funding today still remains below pre-recession (2008) levels.  At the same time, while the massive enrollment growth of the early and mid-2000s has slowed, the needs of our students have increased.  As the front line workers in many departments, we know that your members experience firsthand the reality that first-generation, low income, and traditionally underserved students need more support services in order to persist and complete.

Rising costs, inadequate state funding, and the real needs of our students have strained campus budgets to the point where we are forced to balance increasing tuition, cutting budgets, or in some cases, sacrificing financial stability.  Unlike DAS, the Universities do not have a $200 million salary pot set aside to cover modest increases to existing salary and benefits.  Thus, we present this offer with the information we know to be certain at this time. 

If you or anyone on your team visited our negotiation’s website, then you’re aware that unless the legislature allocates more funding for higher education, PSU undergraduate resident students could face an 11% tuition increase for the next academic year and the university would need to cut $10 million from its budget.  PSU is not alone.  Without the increase sought by the Universities to the Public University Support Fund ($120 million), UO will not be able to meet cost increases without raising their tuition above 5%; and this is after nearly $12 million in self-imposed institutional cuts.  And OSU will need to incur nearly $25 million in cuts if the Governor’s Recommended Budget is approved by the legislature.  Thus, the current reality for the Universities representing nearly 80% of the bargaining unit is grim.  As for the remaining 20%, those for whom state funding constitutes a significantly larger portion of E&G budgets, EOU, Oregon Tech, SOU, and WOU, the picture isn’t any prettier.  

So, please understand that the economic offer we present today is based on our current uncertain budget situation, and DOES NOT reflect what we want to offer, or the value we know that SEIU 503 employees bring to our campus each day.  As our (SEIU and OPU) folks work together in Salem to increase funding for higher education, we look forward to modifying this offer through the course of bargaining so we can come to an agreement that reflects the value that the over 4,500 SEIU 503 members bring to our campuses, and ultimately to the educational experience of our students every day.  Should our funding increase appropriately, we fully expect to revise our offer.  

 

With that statement, the Universities presented the following initial economic offer:

  • Steps frozen for two years (the time in which the Universities proposed an economic reopener.
  • No COLA increase in the first year of the contract, and a .50% increase in the second year.
  • A modification to health care premium cost from 95% employer paid to 85% employer paid which is in-line with other West coast public employer premium shares.

 

The Universities remain confident that the legislature will work diligently to increase funding levels sufficient to allow for a revision in the offer.

During the May 30 and 31 session, the parties entered in to four tentative agreements that brought changes to Article 41 (Bereavement Leave), Article 43 (Leaves with Pay), Article 44 (Leaves without Pay), and Article 59 (Computer Workstations).  In Article 41, the Universities agreed to expand the definition of “immediate family” and increase the number of accrued days one can use for such leave.  In Article 59, the Universities offered, and the Union agreed, to permit those who use computer workstations to request an ergonomic assessment and allow equipment determined beneficial by the University as a result of the assessment to be purchased.  Prior language limited the equipment to a wrist rest only.

The parties also traded proposals on an additional 11 Articles, among which included Article 10 (Union Rights), Article 53 (Reclassifications), and Article 55 (Work Schedules).  The Union stated across the table that Articles 10 and 55 are among its top priorities.  The Universities advised that a number of the issues presented in the Union’s proposal on Article 10 (Union Rights) were currently being addressed by the Legislature and may become part of the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act.   As a result, the Universities were choosing to wait for a decision with respect to the legislative process so that it could assess the new law and make an appropriate counter proposal.  Regarding Article 53 (Reclassifications), the Union rejected the Universities proposal to create an appeals process that would be reviewed by the Chief Human Resources Officer of the University, rather than going to an arbitrator for a final decision. The Universities each believe this change would streamline the current, lengthy process when an employee disagrees with a reclassification decision. This, the Universities said, is a top priority for them.  Finally, with respect to Article 55 (Work Schedules), the parties are working on issues related to alternate work schedules and telecommuting. 

The parties are set to resume negotiations on June 19 and 20 at Western Oregon University and again on June 27 and 28 at Portland State University.

 

June 19 & 20.

The parties met for two days on June 19 and 20 at Western Oregon University to continue classified staff negotiations.  During the two-day session, the parties tentatively agreed to changes in Article 36 (Limited Duration) to allow for such appointments to be extended based on the continuation of any of the funding sources listed in the Article, and then passed a number of proposals for a total of 17 other Articles.

The parties each traded counterproposals on Article 11 (Employee Assistance Program), Article 15 (Parking), Article 46 (Search and Rescue), Article 56 (Safety and Health), Article 61 (Education, Training & Development), and Article 69 (Mutual Respect).  Of these Articles, some had proposed changes that were substantive (Articles 11, 46, 61 and 69) and others more procedural (Articles 15 and 56). 

In Article 11, the Union sought to add language that would not make participation in the employee assistance program mandatory, but the Universities noted that there are times when, particularly in situations involving an employment action, that it is essential that an employee complete a particular course offered by the employee assistance program.  In Article 46, the Union sought to expand the types of search and rescue operations an employee could use with pay in which to participate and the parties then traded proposals over the amount of leave that could be taken.  In Article 61, the Universities added “online training” to the types of training and the Union sought language requiring approval of the leave available in that Article prior to enrollment.  In Article 69, the Universities proposed that the Article cover actions of agents of the Universities, as well as the actions of union organizers and staff representatives who are not employees of a university.  The Universities noted that there have been behaviors by some union organizers on the campuses have, in the view of the Universities, violated the spirit of Article 69.  The Union rejected the Universities’ proposal to have union organizers and staff representatives subject to the provisions of Article 69.

The parties also submitted proposals on a number of other Articles, including Article 53 (Reclassification Upward/Reclassification Downward) which is of significance to the Universities because it seeks to have reclassification appeals heard at the university level and not grievable or subject to arbitration.  The Universities believe that they are best suited to determine the positions and qualifications of the classifications to which it assigns employees. 

The parties seem to be making progress on a number of other Articles that may be tentatively agreed to the next session on June 27 and 28 at Portland State University.

 

June 27 & 28.

The parties continued negotiations at Portland State University on June 27 and 28.  During the session, the parties tentatively agreed to six Articles: Article 15 (Parking), Article 27 and 29 (Moving and Travel Expenses), Article 37 (Job Sharing), Article 45 (Pre-Retirement Counseling), Article 50 (Academic Year Positions), and Article 56 (Safety & Health). Of these Articles, the parties agreed to continue the current contract language with respect to Articles 15, 37, 50, and 56.  In Article 27 and 29, the parties agreed to combine the Article to allow for ease of reference since both deal with reimbursement.  In Article 45, the parties agreed to change the age requirement on when an employee may seek to use the leave under the Article.  The parties also agreed to allow represented temporary employees to accrue sick leave in accordance with State law. 

The Union rejected the Universities’ proposed changes to Articles 17 (Discipline), 18 (Grievance and Arbitration) and 48 (Layoff) noting that the parties were “too far apart.”  No specific reasons were given as the basis to reject the Universities’ proposed changes.  In Article 17, the Universities sought to allow for investigations with or without pay, and allow those investigations to continue where necessary without having the investigation automatically become disciplinary after 45 days (i.e., Title IX investigations that include significant issues which cannot be completed within the 45 day period).  In Article 18, the Universities proposed language that would allow a University that disagrees with a Step 3 decision rendered by another University to appeal that decision to arbitration.  Prior to OUS dissolving, the Chancellor’s Office issued Step 3 decisions and those were binding on the Universities because OUS was a single employer at the time.  Now, each University is independent and the parties have a Step 3 system wherein a University’s Chief Human Resources Officer not involved in the Step 3 will hear the case and render a decision.  In this situation, technically, one employer is “telling” another employer what to do without any ability for the employer to challenge that decision.  The Universities simply would like to have the opportunity to appeal to arbitration a Step 3 decision it disagrees with—a right only the Union has now.  Finally, in Article 48 the Universities proposed language to streamline and clarify the layoff process.  In this regard, the Universities ask the employee involved in the layoff to choose whether they wish to move through the entire process (vacancies, bumping and layoff), exclude the bumping process (in which cases only vacant positions are reviewed), or move directly to layoff.  In the last two situations, the Universities noted that not all employees facing layoff wish to bump their coworkers out of their positions or may know ahead of the layoff that they have employment elsewhere once the layoff occurs.  The proposal allows employees a choice, which the Universities believe is a good thing particularly if the employee wishes to avoid the bumping process. 

The parties also passed an additional 10 Articles, of which the Universities consider Article 35 (Transfer During Trial Service) to be an issue that requires clarification because the term “transfer” has been applied by the Universities to mean within a particular University, not between Universities.  The Universities are working on responding to an information request from the Union that may shed light on this issue. 

At the end of the session the parties signed a contract extension that will keep the collective bargaining agreement in effect through July 31, 2019. 

The negotiations will continue on July 8 and 9 at Oregon State University in Corvallis. 

 

July 8 & 9.

The parties met July 8 and 9 in Corvallis to continue negotiations.  The parties tentatively agreed to changes in Article 38 (Voluntary Demotion) that refers to the salary upon voluntary demotion to be governed by Article 22, Section 5 (Salary Administration).  The parties then each traded proposals on Article 16 (Personnel Records), Article 49 (Seasonal and Intermittent Employees) and Article 54 (Position Descriptions and Performance Evaluations).  In Article 16, the Universities sought to clarify what it believed to be inconsistent language in two separate sections.  After further discussion at the table, the Universities understood the Union’s intent behind the application of the two sections and dropped its clarifying language.  The Universities proposed to eliminate the requirement that two managers sign material that reflects critically upon an employee if the employee refuses to sign or is unavailable to sign, but suggested that the document note which (refused to sign or unavailable) and then is mailed by certified mail and emailed to the employee, both of which must be attached to the material before being placed in the personnel file.  In Article 49, the Universities are seeking language to allow it the flexibility to remove seasonal and intermittent employees by deeming them resigned when they do not meet the minimum number of hours made available by the department or who fail to report to work for three scheduled days.  The Union rejected this and asked the Universities to propose new language.  In Article 54, the Union is seeking to have previously anonymized customer service surveys discussed with employees at least six months prior to the annual evaluation.  The Universities are evaluating this language. 

The parties also passed another 13 separate Articles.  Of those Articles, the Union has identified Article 55 (Schedules) as a significant issue, and the Universities consider Article 13 (Contracting Out) to be significant.  In Article 55, the Universities sought to bridge the gap between the parties by reworking language regarding telecommuting.  In Article 13, the parties are still somewhat apart because the Universities are seeking to eliminate the language that says savings attributable to reduced FTE cannot count towards the overall reduction in costs.  The Universities believe that if there is a need to contract to an outside entity reduced staffing may occur, particularly where the entity is a specialist in a particular field, and those savings should count towards the overall savings.  The Universities believe this is good financial management and stewardship. 

At the end of the negotiations, the Universities owe SEIU a response to 15 different non-economic Articles and Letters of Agreements and SEIU owes the Universities a response to 23 different non-economic Article and Letters of Agreements.

The parties are scheduled to continue negotiations on July 22 and 23 at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

 

July 10.

On July 10, the Union filed for mediation without any advance notice given to the Universities.  In previous negotiations sessions there has been an understanding between the parties to provide notice to the other prior to filing.  Mediation is a required phase in the negotiations process established under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (“PECBA”).  PECBA provides what is referred to as a required “bargaining timeline” that must be followed by the parties.  Mediation is the second phase of the negotiations process that can occur at any time after the parties have been involved in direct negotiations for at least 150 calendar days.  In the Ground Rules, the parties agreed that February 1 began the 150 days of direct negotiations.  Thus, either party could have filed for mediation any day after June 30.  The Union did on July 10. 

In mediation, the State Employment Relations Board assigns a mediator to work with the parties toward resolving any outstanding issues.  A mediator is typically an individual with an extensive background in labor relations and has training in the area of assisting collective bargaining negotiations to a successful completion.  Mediators are required to be neutral and work with the parties to resolve the key issues remaining in negotiations.  Mediation is a confidential process unless there are public offers made.  Thus, the remaining web posts may contain less information due to the confidential nature of mediation.  The Universities look forward to working with the Union and mediator to reach a resolution that is fair and economically viable.

 

July 22 & 23.

The parties continued negotiations in the mediation phase of the process during a two-day session held at Southern Oregon University on July 22 and 23.  The negotiations commenced after 1  p.m. on July 22 with a general discussion regarding the rules of mediation, including the confidentiality of the process unless either party identifies its position or proposal as a matter of public interest.  The Universities’ Bargaining Team was troubled by the lack of urgency displayed by the Union.  The Union presented only two proposals during the first day of negotiations, whereas the Universities bargaining team presented 10, including a revised economic offer.  The Universities displayed a commitment to working thorough the evening of the first day, but the Union had to end negotiations short to attend a membership meeting. 

The Universities continued to display their commitment to the process by submitting another six proposals during negotiations on July 23 and by significantly moving on their proposals to obtain tentative agreements on 12 non-economic Articles, most of which simply involved withdrawing the Universities’ current proposal in favor of retaining existing contract language.  Other tentative agreements combined Articles, such as moving all scheduling related issues from other Articles into Article 55—Scheduling.

The parties traded economic offers once more before the end of the two-day session.  The Union withdrew its offer to add an additional step in the second year of a successor contract and reduced its cost of living adjustment offer from 5% in each year to 4.5% in each year.  The Universities increased their offer by proposing to move from offering no steps in each year of a successor contract to offering a half step in each year.  In addition, the Universities offered a cost of living adjustment in the first year of a successor contract, as well as proposed to return to current contract provisions regarding healthcare.   The Universities offer to return to current provisions for healthcare places the healthcare offer by the Universities as the top program offered for all public employees in California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada. 

The Universities continue to balance the need to keep tuition affordable with contract provisions that fairly compensate the Universities’ hardworking classified employees.  As noted at the bargaining table in prior sessions, the Legislature’s $100 million increase in University has assisted the Universities in being able to “buy-down” the large tuition increases previously sought by the Universities.   The struggle is even more compounded when one considers that a classified employee who receives a full step receives a 4.75% increase in salary.  Thus, a classified employee who received a full step in both years of the existing contract received a salary increase of 9.50% over two years, plus a cost of living increase of 2.0% over the same time for a total increase in salary of 11.50%. Furthermore, the average classified employee earns roughly $39,700 a year in salary.  When other payroll expenditures are added to that salary (such as benefits and payroll taxes) the average classified employee earns roughly $52,000 in total compensation.

The Universities will continue to discuss with the Union how to balance the tuition affordability issue and increases to classified employees’ compensation when they meet next week with the Union, and not the State Mediator, in La Grande on August 5 and 6.

 

August 5 & 6.

The parties met on August 5 and 6 at Eastern Oregon University to continue negotiations.  A portion of the session was without the aid of a mediator.  During the negotiations the parties passed over 20 proposals on a number of Articles, most of which were non-economic.  In the end, the parties made significant progress on a number of non-economic issues.  Indeed, the parties reached a tentative agreement on 10 Articles and/or Letters of Agreement. 

The Universities proposed changes to Article 48 (Layoff) and explained its changes to the Union bargaining team through a presentation.  The changes proposed by the University were designed to streamline and ease the layoff process.  The most notable change proposed by the Universities was to allow an employee an irrevocable choice at the beginning of the process to either move through the entire layoff process, choose to review vacant positions only, or move directly to layoff.  Choosing the entire layoff process means that the employee would be permitted to be placed in vacant positions (if available), then “bump” less senior colleagues from their positions, and then move to layoff if no positions were available to bump into.  The Universities noted that employee choice is important because many do not wish to “bump” their colleagues from their positions and rather only review vacant positions available. Moreover, some employees facing layoff know in advance that such is coming and secure other employment that begins after the layoff date. In this situation, an employee may wish to simply be laid off and placed on the recall list.  Either way, the Universities believe employee choice will streamline and ease the layoff process. 

Before leaving negotiations, the Universities presented an increased economic offer.  The Universities current economic offer stands at:  full steps in the first year of the contract (a 4.75% increase) and a half-step in the second year of the contract (a 2.37% increase), as well as .50% cost of living adjustments on January 1, 2020, July 1, 2020, January 1, 2021 and June 1, 2021 (a 2.0% total increase).  This offer represents a total increase in salary of 9.12% for eligible employees. 

In addition, the Universities proposed increasing the salary of the following classifications to the ranges listed:

Campus Public Safety Officers from Salary Range 17 to Salary Range 22

Electrical/Control System Technician from Salary Range 27 to Salary Range 30

HVAC Control Technician from Salary Range 20B to Salary Range 25

Plumber from Salary Range 23B to Salary Range 27

The Universities continue negotiations with the Union on August 15 and 16 with the aid of a mediator at Western Oregon University.

 

August 15 & 16.

The Universities and the SEIU met on August 15 and 16 in Monmouth on the campus of Western Oregon University with the assistance of a State Mediator to continue negotiations.  The negotiations began at 1:00pm, however, the Union’s Bargaining Team requested to meet with the Universities’ Bargaining Team at 4:30pm. 

During the 4:30pm session, the Universities’ Bargaining Team presented its counter proposal on Article 10 (Union Rights) and Article 53 (Reclassifications Upward/Downward). Regarding Article 53, the Universities maintained its position that it was not in the best interests of the employees, Universities, or Union to have reclassification issues be presented to an independent arbitrator for resolution because that arbitrator is not familiar with the classification system or the unique workings of the classified employees or university. Instead, the Universities believed these decision were best suited for the Universities’ Offices of Human Resources. When the Union disagreed, the Universities proposed that a panel of management and classified employees could render these types of decisions. This panel idea was first developed by the Universities and Union in 2015 when the Universities were considering implementing a new classification system. The Union appeared to agree with the Universities proposal, because it presented a counter proposal that contained substantially the same language.  The Universities’ worked on the language again and then sent the Union a revised proposal that it is currently considering. 

The Union presented a package proposal during the 4:30pm session that included a number of Articles, but most importantly included proposals on Article 48 (Layoff), Article 63 (Inclement Weather), and Article 69 (Mutual Respect). As for the layoff Article, which is a priority for the Universities, the Union sought to return to the current contract language without providing justification for doing so. This was frustrating to the Universities, who first proposed language changes to this Article on May 3, and then had to bargain against itself and issue a revised proposal because the Union said the parties were “far apart” without providing any analysis as to how the parties were “far apart”. Regarding Inclement Weather, the Universities current proposal is that the University President has the discretion to declare delayed openings as paid time—a decision that is not currently addressed in the current collective bargaining agreement. The Union countered by asking the Universities to guarantee paid time for any time a campus is closed or delayed, removing the President’s discretion. Finally, the Union sought to add a long list of potential conduct to the Mutual Respect Article that one could claim to be a violation of the Article. The Universities said that by inserting a list of certain conduct, even though it would not be limited to such, an employee might not consider other conduct to be a violation and, therefore, elect not to file a complaint. The Universities said that employees might be deterred from exercising their rights under the Article by adding such a list. Later that evening, the Universities presented a package proposal, agreeing to most of the Union’s Mutual Respect proposal, despite their reservations and in an attempt to move negotiations along.

The next day the Universities’ Bargaining Team requested an economic counter offer from the Union’s Bargaining Team so that the Universities could review and continue the economic discussions and find a pathway towards settlement. The Universities’ last presented an economic counter offer, so the Union was due to respond. The Union refused to present an economic counter offer, asserting that it wanted to resolve the outstanding non-economic issues before turning to economics. The Universities believed the Union was conditioning economic bargaining on the resolution of non-economics, something the parties did not agree to in their Ground Rules or otherwise. 

The Universities Bargaining Team continued reviewing and providing counter proposals to the remaining non-economic issues and, in the end, presented a package proposal that agreed with the Union’s prior package proposal on the following: Article 11 (Employee Assistance Program), Article 16 (Personnel Records), Article 17 (Discharge and Discipline), and Article 69 (Mutual Respect). The other two Articles, Article 18 (Grievances and Arbitration) and Article 53 (Reclassification Upward/Downward) contained, in the Universities’ Bargaining Teams’ view, minor changes from the Union’s prior proposals.

Finally, in an effort to keep the economic discussions going, the Universities’ Bargaining Team decided to present another counter offer, despite not receiving a response on economics from the Union. The Universities increased their offer by presenting a 1.0% cost of living adjustment in the first year of the new agreement (March 1, 2020) and a 1.5% cost of living adjustment in the second year of the new agreement (.75% on November 1, 2020 and another .75% on March 1, 2021). This, along with full steps in both years, though delayed by six (6) months in the second year, brought the Universities’ overall offer to 12% over two years for all employees eligible to receive steps and the Union’s offer stood at nearly a 20% increase over the two years. 

Immediately after presenting the Universities economic offer, and despite progress made during the session, the Union declared impasse. This declaration of impasse occurred without any prior notice to the Universities or any response from the Union to the Universities’ counter proposal on non-economics (which met the Union on most of the Articles) or the economic counter offer. 

Impasse is the next required phase in the negotiations process that is outlined in Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act.  More information on impasse may be found on this website located under the Frequently Asked Questions tab.

Note:  On Sunday evening (August 18), after the negotiation session had concluded and the Union declared impasse, the Union submitted the Universities’ Bargaining Team an economic counter offer on Sunday evening that lowered its overall salary demands to just over 18%. 

 

September 11, 12 & 13.

The parties continued negotiations in a mediated session at Oregon State University on September 11, 12, and 13.  While most the negotiations were conducted under the confidentiality provisions of mediation, the parties were able to resolve all of the non-economic Articles that remained.  The most significant changes within those Articles are the changes to Article 48, Layoff.  In that Article, an employee subject to layoff will be given a choice to move through the entire layoff process (vacant positions first, then displacing less senior co-workers), or be laid off (where the employee may already have a new position).  Also significant, is that the University applying the layoff provisions can apply all level of vacancies prior to displacing any employees.  This may reduce the number of employees who are displaced. 

The Universities also increased their economic offer twice during the session, ending with the following offer currently on the table:

  • Full steps increases of 4.75% in each year of the next contract
  • 2.0% cost of living adjustment for all classified employees effective November 1, 2019
  • 2.0% cost of living adjustment for all classified employees effective July 1, 2020
  • $750 one-time bonus to be paid with classified employees’ November 2019 pay for all employees who reached the top of their salary range on or before June 30, 2018. This bonus will be paid provided the employee is in good standing (no deficient performance rating in the performance cycle immediately prior to October 31, and if no work plan in effect as of October 31).
  • All other benefits (healthcare, pension, holidays, vacations, sick leave, personal leave, bereavement, and others) remain as-is for the next contract.

While the parties did not reach agreement on economics to settle the negotiations, the Universities continue to remain optimistic that the parties can reach a final tentative agreement that is fair to the classified employees and sustainable for the students we serve. 

The parties are set to meet September 23 and 24 at Portland State University.

 

September 18.

Following an announcement by the Union that a majority of its members who chose to vote authorized its bargaining team to call a strike, the Union just served the Universities with its Notice of Intent to Strike.  The required notice sets Monday, September 30 at 7:00 a.m. as the date and time for the Union to begin its strike.   

Frequently Asked Questions related to strikes can be found here or by accessing the "Frequently Asked Questions" page of this website.  

 

September 23 & 24.

The parties' agreed to meet in mediated negotiation sessions on September 23 and 24.  After exchanging various types of offers on September 23, members of the SEIU bargaining team did not return to the bargaining table on the 24th.

Meanwhile, members of the Universities’ bargaining team remained at the bargaining table on the 24th willing to negotiate a settlement and, in fact, emailed a new offer to SEIU in the spirit of moving the negotiations along.

That new offer is:

  • 2.0% cost of living adjustment for all classified employees effective November 1, 2019;
  • 2.25% cost of living adjustment for all classified employees effective July 1, 2020 (total of 4.25% in raises over two years);
  • Full step wage increases of 4.75% in each year of the next contract, representing a total of 9.5% over two years. This offer applies to more than 70 percent of classified employees not already at the top step of their classification;
  • $850 one-time bonus to be paid in November 2019 for all classified staff who already reached the top of their salary range on or before June 30, 2018. The bonus will be paid provided an employee is in good standing.
  • Commitment to keeping entry level-wages at all universities above Portland-metro area universities’ minimum wage by eliminating steps of the salary schedule that are below that rate;
  • Agreement to keep meal costs at current rates for dining service employees at the University of Oregon; and,
  • All other benefits (healthcare, pension, holidays, vacations, sick leave, personal leave, bereavement, and others) remain as is in the current contract (2017-19) for the next contract (2019-2021).

 

The Universities and SEIU are set to meet Thursday, September 26 at the Wilsonville campus of Oregon Tech.

We remain optimistic that we can reach a settlement prior to September 30, which is when a strike action could begin.  Our classified staff play an invaluable role in university operations, so we hope we can be a united front welcoming our students back to campus.