During the bargaining session on Saturday at OSU-Cascades, the administration took a new stance that would radically weaken compensation and job protections for faculty. Among the administration’s most troubling proposals were:
- Refusing to guarantee the current level of employer contributions to and quality of our health-insurance and retirement benefits, which are currently 32% of the total compensation we receive for our work;
- Weakening or removing provisions on faculty stability, many of which are current OSU policy or practice, like the guarantee of multi-year contracts for post-promotion fixed-term faculty and important protections against arbitrary decisions in promotion and tenure; and
- Introducing a new formal class of faculty, Term-by-Term Instructors.
The session on Saturday in Bend went from 9am-5pm. Six faculty members observed the session.
The morning of bargaining saw our UAOSU team presenting counterproposals on Dues Deduction and Academic Classification & Rank and the administration team presenting counterproposals on Academic Freedom, Grievance Procedure, and Arbitration. While these administration’s counterproposals contained some troubling issues, they were largely consistent with the progress towards agreement that the two teams have been making in recent weeks.
The counterproposals the administration presented in the afternoon were very different.
In their first response to our financial proposals, the administration gave us a one-page counterproposal titled Benefits that could radically alter the health insurance and retirement benefits that faculty receive. Instead of agreeing to maintain the current 95% employer contribution to our PEBB health-insurance premiums, they proposed that the administration be given the unfettered flexibility to reduce the amount they pay. Our team pointed out that under their proposal, the administration could decide that faculty were responsible for 100% of the health insurance premium, which would be a cut in annual compensation of $16,000 for the average faculty member and $26,000 for a faculty member whose spouse and children were also covered by their PEBB health insurance. While the administration team said that it was not their intent to change the 95% employer contribution, they agreed that their proposal would allow them to do so at will.
By asserting their right to modify the provisions of our benefits, the administration is refusing to commit—even for the three- to five-year life of this contract—to maintain the current amounts of our compensation for health insurance and retirement benefits, protections that are routine in union contracts, including the agreement that Oregon universities reached with their classified staff last week.
Their one-page Benefits proposal was intended to address six of our proposals: Public Employee Benefits (health insurance etc), Postdoctoral Scholar and Postdoctoral Fellow Health Plan, Retirement Benefits, Fringe Benefits, Benefits for Eligible Retired Faculty Members (fringe benefits for retirees), and Transportation & Parking. For the most part, the administration’s counterproposals did not address the issues in our proposals, issues voiced to UAOSU by the OSU faculty.
The administration also produced an alarming four-page counterproposal on Appointment, Reappointment, Review and Promotion and a short Letter of Agreement on Position Descriptions in response to UAOSU’s eleven proposals: Hiring Information, Notice of Appointment, Position Descriptions, Annual Review, Midterm Review, Post-Tenure Review, General Guidelines for Promotion & Tenure, Promotion & Tenure in the Tenure-Track Classification, Promotion in the Fixed-Term Instructional Categories and Fixed-Term Research Categories, Promotion in the Fixed-Term Professorial Categories, and Retrenchment. The administration’s counterproposal:
- Introduced a formal class of faculty, Term-by-Term Instructors, that is new to OSU;
- Removed the guarantee of multi-year contracts for post-promotion fixed-term faculty;
- Removed protections from arbitrary dismissal or reduction in assigned FTE for post-promotion fixed-term faculty;
- Removed access to promotions and annual reviews for part-time faculty;
- Removed many details that protect faculty from arbitrary decisions from the promotion & tenure process; and
- Mostly importantly, declared that disputes “relating to appointment, reappointment, review, and promotion and tenure are not subject to the Grievance and Arbitration Articles of this Agreement”, so that there is no mechanism to hold the administration accountable to follow the mild restrictions they proposed for themselves.
These are disturbing demands that reduce faculty stability from the current policies and practices at OSU.
We were surprised and dismayed by the level of disrespect for faculty reflected in the administration’s counterproposals. We had been making progress in our negotiations and see this as a large setback. The administration’s counterproposals would reverse the progress that has been made at OSU over the past years, particularly for fixed-term faculty.
The administration’s team is intent on creating a minimalist collective bargaining agreement, with few guarantees of faculty rights, protections, and self-governance. This model of academic employment was imported by our new Provost and Assistant Provost for Academic Employee and Labor Relations, who both came from the University of Illinois system where there has been significant labor strife. This is most emphatically not in the best interests of OSU.
The purpose of a CBA is to clearly prescribe all matters related to our employment at OSU and, crucially, to be able to enforce them through the grievance process. The administration has adopted the practice of adding a “not grievable” statement at the end of many of their proposals. Without an enforcement mechanism, their “statements of intent” are just words on a page. The administration is asserting the right to change or ignore policies and current practices at will.
Our ability to bargain successfully for a fair contract depends on all of us participating. Make your voice heard by attending bargaining sessions; becoming a member; getting involved in building our organizational structure and culture; wearing UAOSU buttons and T-shirts, especially on Fridays; and talking with your colleagues about what we are hoping to accomplish. We have reached a crucial stage in the negotiations and need concerted effort from you to get the fair contract we need.
The next bargaining sessions are 9–1 on Friday, October 11 and 9–1 on Monday, October 28, both in the LaSells Stewart Center. Even if you can only drop by for half an hour, your attendance matters: show the administration that faculty are watching this process.
We appreciate your support. You can find a full calendar of Fall Term bargaining sessions on our website, where you can also find a table with links to all of the articles that both teams have proposed.