Thank you to all the colleagues who attended the bargaining session last Thursday. Our team appreciates the support, and it really helps to have the people we are fighting for right there in the room with us. We had a good session, with lots of important business.
Our first proposal was on Article 16, “Contracts”. We offered several proposals that we hope will move the conversation forward. Specifically, we have been trying to come to agreement on when faculty receive their actual contracts with their terms of appointment, how we can get funding contingent faculty more job stability, and limiting the reasons for non-renewal of Career NTT faculty contracts.
We proposed that Career NTT faculty must receive their full contracts no later than one month before their job starts, but we also proposed that they be informed of their FTE when they receive their renewal notice in May. We believe that knowing the FTE for the coming year is the most important piece of information NTT faculty need to assess whether they want to stay at the university or look for work elsewhere.
Our team proposed that all Career NTT faculty should receive at least one-year contracts, although we allowed that funding-contingent faculty could have their contracts terminated if there was a loss of funding. What we are trying to do is provide Career NTT faculty on funding contingent contracts with as much job security as possible, while recognizing the very real funding realities in the research areas. We think our proposal strikes a good balance.
Next, our team reintroduced our proposal limiting to four the legitimate reasons why a Career NTT faculty contract could be non-renewed: poor performance, lack of funding, no programmatic need for the position, or to replace the NTT position with a TT position. We have repeated this proposal because we believe strongly that if a faculty member makes a commitment to the university and performs up to professional standards, then the university should make a similar commitment in return.
The most contentious topic was salary. Our team made its second proposal, which was conceptually similar to our opening proposal, but with somewhat lower dollar figures. As in our initial offer, we proposed COLA raises, equity adjustments, and money for merit increases. Again we proposed raising salary floors for the non-tenure-track faculty. And we repeated our proposal that full professors receive a meaningful raise each time they successfully complete a major review.
In the interest of reaching agreement, our team also lowered the dollar amounts. Our COLA proposal still matches the CPI rate for this area last year (2.5%), but we lowered the proposal on the amount of money that would go to merit raises in both years of the next contract (from 2% in FY16 and 4% in FY17 to 1.5% per year). We lowered the money in the merit category because our initial merit component made up almost half of our total salary proposal. Finally, we also lowered slightly our proposal on salary floors. Overall, our salary proposal is a 10% increase over the two years.
Our team’s willingness to lower salary proposals, despite the administration’s insulting initial “offer,” acknowledges the administration team’s receptiveness to other proposals we have made, both economic and non-economic. It also indicates our good faith effort to complete bargaining with a good contract as soon as possible. We remain hopeful that the administration team will respond in kind.
On this, the signals are mixed. Last time we met, the administration team rejected our health insurance proposal on the grounds that it violates state benefit laws. We had proposed that all faculty with an annual appointment of .5 FTE or above receive PEBB benefits, regardless of their term-to-term FTE. Currently, a faculty member who teaches, say, only in the fall and spring terms has no coverage during the winter term, even if her FTE is greater than .5 for the year as a whole.
We are not convinced that our proposal is in conflict with state rules. On the contrary, our research indicates that health insurance can continue in the situations we described. We asked the administration’s team to explain their reasoning; they agreed that if no legal obstacle exists, then we could talk about costs.
Appeal of Tenure Denials
For its part, the administration team proposed some changes to the tenure review and promotion process and the tenure appeals procedure. Many of their changes were items we had proposed and we are glad to see progress toward agreement.
Unfortunately, the administration still insists that, in order to pursue the internal tenure denial appeals process (through the PTRAC), a faculty member must waive his or her statutory rights to sue. This stand is perplexing on several levels. First, this proposal contradicts the current Oregon Administrative Rules (OARs) that say that faculty members lose their right to appeal when they sue, but do not lose their right to sue when they appeal. The administration’s proposal would therefore encourage faculty to sue rather than pursue internal appeal through PTRAC. We hope that in these budget-conscious times, the administration team will see the wisdom of limiting lawsuits, rather than encouraging them.
We’re back to the table next Thursday at 2:00 p.m.in the Knight Library Collaboration Center, room 122. Sessions have been tending to end around 4:00 p.m. or so, so by all means come early!