Bargaining Update — August 5, 2015

This is a long update with the intention of alerting you to the very serious gap we face at the bargaining table. We want to offer you an appraisal of where we stand on several outstanding issues.

Last Tuesday, the administration’s bargaining team moved on salaries, suggesting once again that they have no more money for faculty. The administration’s latest offer was only 6.5% over three years, with the vast majority of that money being dedicated to merit raises, and with a significant portion (20%) reserved to the deans to distribute at their “sole discretion.” How does the UO expect to sustain and grow academic excellence with mediocre salary proposals?

Their proposal fails to address equity, keep up with inflation, and will likely fail to match what our AAU peers average in the coming years. With the administration’s proposal, we will surely lose what ground we gained relative to our AAU peers. It is a weak proposal for a university that has ample resources to invest in faculty.

You can read a recap of our last salary package here. After moving substantially in an effort to conclude negotiations this summer, we proposed an average increase to base salary of 10% spread over three years. Our proposal addressed equity raises, across-the-board (COLA) raises, and merit raises. While the UO Administration moved from their initial insulting offer of 0% for the first year, we have consistently moved in a fair and transparent manner at the table.

Stand with us in our call for the UO to invest in faculty and prioritize academic excellence, Wed. August 12 in the Ford Alumni Center (Exec. Board Rm), 10am-6pm.

As we pointed out in our Op-Ed last Sunday, with growing reserves, growing state contributions, and a growing endowment, the UO has ample resources to move faculty salaries above the rate of inflation and to continue closing the gap with our AAU peers. It is a question of priorities, not resources. Please check out our Op-Ed and share with colleagues. The Op-Ed statement reinforces the substance of our faculty petition, with over 340 signatures, which we submitted to the Board of Trustees and President Schill on July 22.

It is critical that we have as large a turnout as possible at our next bargaining session, scheduled for August 12, Ford Alumni Center, 10 am to 6 pm. A large presence will send the message that the faculty is watching and is not happy with the administration’s proposals. The administration team has said that we need to stop listening to the complainers and listen to the majority of faculty. Let’s show them that dissatisfaction with faculty salaries and budget priorities is not limited to just a few “complainers”!

Here are the details of the latest administration proposal: A 1% across-the-board raise for next year (FY16) for all faculty; a 2.5% merit pool for Career and TT faculty in FY17; and a 3% merit pool for Career and TT faculty in FY18. They also proposed raising the salary floors by 6% in FY16, but no increases after that. They maintain the “Adjunct” differential: a minimum salary floor for temporary faculty of only 80% of the corresponding non-temporary floors.

While we are modestly encouraged with the improvement in their overall economic package, unfortunately there are still several areas where we have not found agreement. A strong faculty presence at bargaining will help push the administration team to sense our resolve on these important issues. If you agree with our thinking below, we urge you to come to bargaining and represent your interests. Our team will push as much as they can on your behalf, but your presence in the room would add immeasurably to the effort.

One of the important proposals we have presented is that if a faculty member has an appreciable increase in workload, then he or she should receive a corresponding increase in FTE or base salary. As we have stated at the table, an increase in work with no increase in pay is the same thing as a decrease in pay. We are also proposing that if faculty have a decrease in FTE, but no decrease in workload, then they should receive an increase to base pay. The principle is the same: Our work and salaries should be adjusted so that no faculty member sees an appreciable increase in work without an increase in pay or a decrease in pay without a decrease in work.

We are proposing, and insisting, on this language because some units have been trying to make “adjustments” so that faculty don’t really receive raises. After our last round of raises, one college implemented widespread decreases in FTE that were precisely calibrated to offset raises. We have also heard of incidents where classes have been added to faculty workload with no increase in FTE or salary. These situations are often localized and some faculty, especially our NTTF, have felt pressured to just silently accept these insults. When your job is up for non-renewal every year, you tend to keep your mouth shut.

So far, the administration team has agreed with us in principle, yet still refuses to allow protective language into the CBA. The administration’s main concern is that some faculty might not be working as hard as the admin thinks they should be, and they need the “flexibility” to adjust “historically under-assigned FTE” for these faculty with no increase in FTE. The admin, of course, will not identify the faculty or the units that have “historically under-assigned FTE,” so they want to maintain the flexibility to assign more work to any faculty member at any time with no adjustment to FTE or salary. We insist that if in fact there are under-assigned faculty on this campus, the administration would still have the ability deal with those on a case-by-case basis while still explicitly protecting the contractual rights of all faculty to be paid proportionally for work they perform.

The second issue where we can find no common ground is on the issue of equity raises. We have proposed twin pools of 1.5% of salary for TT and NTT faculty. Our proposal calls for a committee to develop guidelines and for deans to distribute the money according to the guidelines. We propose this money be used to address both internal and external equity problems. Some units have internal equity problems, while others are still very far behind their comparators. We think it is important to address our very real equity problems before we institute merit raises in the following years.

The administration has flat out disagreed with us. Not only do they claim there is no money to address equity concerns, they fail to even perceive these equity concerns on campus. For example, while both teams celebrate the rise of the average tenure-track faculty member’s salary to 94% of our AAU peer salaries, the union team has repeatedly pointed out many of our departments lag seriously behind their comparators. The administration has responded to this by suggesting that maybe some departments should be well behind their comparators because they are just not very good. The administration, of course, has declined to name the specific departments that deserve below-average salaries.

You can see if your department is lagging behind the AAU peers here: http://ir.uoregon.edu/sites/ir.uoregon.edu/files/UOwithAAUPublicsbySchoolRk_2014-15.pdf Judge for yourself whether your unit deserves to be behind its comparators.

Another issue over which we have found no agreement is over raises for adjunct and postdoctoral faculty. While we have proposed that all bargaining unit faculty should receive raises and share in the raise pools, the administration has insisted that adjuncts and postdocs only receive the first 1% across-the-board raise and that they not be eligible for merit raises in subsequent years. There are more than 400 adjunct and postdoc faculty at the UO and it is unconscionable that the admin is insisting that they receive only a 1% raise over three years.

The last issue where we have no agreement is how the merit pools would work. We propose that a percentage—4% in FY18—of all the salaries of eligible TT faculty in a department or unit would be put into a pool and that money would be distributed to the TT faculty according the policy developed last year. The same process would work for the NTT faculty.

The administration proposes that the deans of each school or college be allowed to keep 20% of the total pool money to distribute to the departments or units they want at their sole discretion. The administration claims to need this holdback to address unnamed departments where all or most of the faculty are so meritorious that asking them to split a small amount of money is not fair. In other words, it’s possible to that one unit may have a bunch of faculty who are all meritorious in relation to each other and would get an average merit raise, while another unit could be filled with amazing faculty but would also receive an average raise.

Unfortunately, as in almost all other cases, the administration cannot or will not name these exceptional units. How many of them are there? How would we know they are truly exceptional? What prevents a dean from just giving money to his or her favorite unit or faculty (or not giving money to the units that may have been a bit too argumentative during the policy development process)? The administration has no answers to these questions.

We have tried working with the administration team to address what could be a legitimate issue. We have pointed out that our CBA already has a process for distributing retention raises. We have pointed out that there is absolutely no bar to deans distributing “extra” money to departments if they wish. We have argued that the if the problem is one of “small pools”, as they say, then the most obvious solution is to increase the size of the pools. They have rejected all of these suggestions.

We share their concern that the raise proposals are not large enough to reward truly outstanding faculty for their meritorious work. We do not, however, believe that the best way to recognize this work is allow deans to take money out of one department’s pool and put it someplace else without any guidelines. We will not allow deans to rob Peter to pay Paul when both have done outstanding work.

We have spent eight months at the table talking. We have made real progress, but these unresolved issues are critically important. The administration team needs to understand that all faculty are concerned about these issues, so we need your help to bring the university to reason. Please help us bargain a contract that is fair to all faculty and that will help this university realize its academic potential.

August 12 – Ford Alumni Center – 10 am to 6 pm – come for as long as you can make it. Bring a book or laptop and stay longer.

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1. The pools of money are based on a percentage of the total salaries of all eligible faculty members in a unit. So if your unit has 5 faculty members who have total base salaries equaling $400,000, then a 2% pool would be $8000. This money would be distributed based on your unit’s policy. We always propose separate pools for tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track faculty.
2. We have agreed to start calling “adjunct” faculty “pro tem” faculty, but because this is new, for the purposes of this email we will stick to the old “adjunct” label.

Posted in Bargaining, Faculty Salaries, Updates.