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 22 & 23:   Southern Oregon University.

August 5 & 6:   Eastern Oregon University.

August 15 & 16:   Western Oregon University.

 

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.