Last week’s bargaining session, the last of this academic year, turned out to be lively. The administration’s bargaining team made two important proposals, and we presented our latest salary proposal.
Faculty Files and Records:
First, the administration team brought to the table a new proposal on faculty files and records. Their proposal was that we simply follow University policy, with one exception: that bargaining unit faculty would be entitled to a free copy of their three evaluative files. We feel strongly that the current CBA language already grants faculty free copies of their records as well as of their files. Faculty records include disciplinary records, any Affirmative Action files, applications for leaves or sabbaticals, etc. There are any number of “records” related to UO faculty and no one really knows where they are or who controls them.
Notices of Appointment:
Next, the administration team presented their proposal on Notices of Appointment. For two years, we have been trying to clarify, regularize, and stabilize the process of renewal for Career NTT faculty. We believe that Career NTT faculty should expect to be renewed , and if (a) they have successful reviews; (b) there is continued funding for their position; (c) their work continues to fit within the programmatic need of their department or unit.
Regrettably, the administration team proposed that the University should be allowed to non-renew Career NTT faculty if it believes it might be able to find someone better—even if the faculty member has been successful in all of his or her reviews. The administration’s concern is that a faculty member could succeed in all of his or her reviews, but still be “meh.” The administration would like to be able to declare a faculty member “meh” —despite their having met all standards of excellence—and replace that person with someone whom the University thinks might not be “meh.”
We pointed out that (a) Article 19 requires all units to establish personnel review policies and criteria that ensure faculty “meet the standards of excellence at a major research university”; (b) that the deans and Academic Affairs had approved the review criteria for NTT faculty, so that it should be impossible for a faculty member to have a successful review and still be “meh”; and (c) that unit heads, deans, and Academic Affairs have to conduct and approve all faculty reviews. Given all this, it strains credulity that faculty member could simultaneously be both successful and “meh.”
We also pointed out that telling faculty members that they are being fired for performance “concerns,” despite having successfully completed their performance reviews, is morally wrong and violates every known principle of personnel management.
The administration team also proposed that they be able to non-renew a successful Career NTT faculty if they had financial “concerns.” When asked to clarify what kind of concerns would justify terminating the academic career of a faculty member, they that just about any “concerns” would be justification.
The administration team also rejected our proposal for some job security for funding-contingent faculty. We had proposed that funding-contingent faculty be given at least one-year contracts that could still be cancelled if there was a loss of funding. We also proposed that funding-contingent faculty in the service centers be given longer-term contracts when they earn them, again with the caveat that contracts could still be ended if there was a loss of funding. The administration team rejected these proposals without much explanation. They felt uneasy contracting someone for a long-term job if it was possible the job could end early. In light of our previous conversation about non-renewals, the inconsistency of this position was not lost on our bargaining team.
In addition to minor changes to several articles, the United Academics team then presented our latest offer on salary. In light of the administration’s movement in their last salary proposal, we also responded in kind, while maintaining funds in all four important raise categories: COLA, equity, merit, and salary floors.
We agreed to lower the COLA portion of the salary package to 2.0% in each of the two years, down from 2.5%. Again, we agreed to lower the amount in this category to reflect the administration’s movement and work toward a deal.
We also made some movement in our equity portion of the package. For equity, we proposed a committee to study the equity problems on campus in academic year 2015–2016, and for the raises to go into effect in fiscal year 2017. We proposed that both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty should have pools of money equivalent to 1.25% of salary to address internal and/or external equity issues. We recognize that some units have severe external equity problems and others have internal equity issues. By allowing for flexibility, we hope we can address some serious issues on our campus.
The amount of money we proposed for the two merit pools stayed the same in FY16 (1.5%), but increased slightly in FY17 (1.75%). While we recognize that it is better for faculty merit to be rewarded as soon as possible, we increased merit money in the second year because we are trying to be mindful of the administration’s concern about a possible deficit this year. That said, we continue to believe that these differences reflect priorities. According to Howard Bunsis, the UO should realize a $6-7 million surplus this year.
We maintained the amount of money we propose for salary floors, although we split the 10% increase to the floors over the two years. We still think they should come up 10% over the two years, as our minimums are well below those of our comparators. We again rejected their proposal that they be allowed to pay visiting (“adjunct”) only 80% of the rate of Career faculty. We maintain that “adjuncts” have the same workloads, teach the same classes, and perform the same tasks in labs, so there is no reason to pay them less.
Our total package of raises came down 1% from our last proposal, which would mean an average raise in the first year of 3.5%. We told the administration team that we are very hesitant to go below this level, especially given the intransigence we continue to see on major non-salary concerns (see above). We reminded the administration team that Jamie Moffit had presented us information that showed the AAU peers gave their faculty an average raise of 3.4% last year. Anything less than a 3.5% increase for our faculty puts us in danger of once again falling further behind our comparators, something we just cannot let happen.
Both parties agreed to take a break for the rest of June and to resume bargaining in July. Our team hopes that the short break will provide enough time for a reexamination of positions and we can wrap up bargaining well before the start of classes in the fall.