CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS (MAY 2016 – MARCH 2017
USF Financial Statements:
The USFFA Negotiating Team:
- Austin, Matt (USFFA Consultant)
- Garity, Joe (Gleeson Rep)
- Gmelch, Sharon (Term Faculty and Arts Rep)
- Henfield, Malik S. (SOE Rep)
- Johnson III, Richard Greggory (Treasurer and SOM Rep)
- Neaman, Elliot (Chief Negotiator and Arts Rep)
- Nikitenko, Gleb (Term Faculty and SOM Rep)
- Niles, Mary Jane (Sergeant at Arms and Sciences Rep)
- Orri, Julia (Secretary and Sciences Rep)
- Rowniak, Stefan (SONHP Rep)
- Weiner, Brian (Vice-President and Arts Rep)
Q. If the membership does not accept the six-year contract, can the University declare “impasse” and impose its “last best offer?”
A. Yes. The last best offer in labor law refers to the terms by which the employer will allow the employees to return to work, in other words the employer sets the terms of the contract. In our current situation, the parties would return to the bargaining table with the Federal Mediator, were we not to accept the six-year contract, but then USF could impose an across-the-board salary plus steps per year, and the rest of the items would be set by the University, i.e. it could decide which items to include and which not. For example, the 75% sabbatical must be renewed at the end of each contract expiration. The University could decide not to extend the 75% sabbatical clause. The University would most likely not offer retroactive pay on salary.
Q. What does impasse mean, and who decides when negotiations are at impasse?
A. In labor law impasse means that no further movement in negotiations occurs, and the parties are therefore deadlocked. Either side can declare impasse, but if the University declares impasse and the USFFA objects, then the decision can be appealed to the NLRB.
Q. What is the likelihood that the University would impose an offer on the USFFA?
A. The University has informed the USFFA that if the membership rejects the current contract proposal, then the University would return to the negotiating table. However, at some point the University could decide that we have reached impasse and then could impose its last best offer, which most likely would be a three year contract at an across the board 2% per year increase to salary plus steps (like other unionized employees on campus), and all other items would be renegotiated. Retroactive pay would not be guaranteed.
Q. If the University imposes an offer, can we strike?
A. This issue is not clear, since our CBA has a “no strike clause” that does not expire until 2018. Before deciding to take a strike vote, the USFFA probably would declare that we are not at impasse and the issue would then have to be adjudicated by the NLRB. After the ruling by the NLRB, a strike could be taken, depending on the ruling. Our lawyers disagree about what would happen should we strike. The University could try to get an injunction to stop a strike. Ultimately the NLRB would also decide on the legality of an injunction. It should be noted that the USFFA does not have a strike fund, so the length of the strike would also depend on the determination and ability of the membership to survive without an income.
Q. Instead of a strike, could the contract be adjudicated through arbitration?
A. No. Arbitration, whether binding or not, is not included in our CBA and is therefore not an option.
Q. If the membership votes “no” on the six- year deal, and the University agrees to go back to the negotiating table, what would happen?
A. The offer of a 2-2-2% salary increase per year plus steps for three years most likely would be put on the table (the offer could start at less than 2%) but everything else would have to be renegotiated. It is unlikely that the offer of term sabbaticals would be renewed, the amounts for sabbatical merit pay could be reduced and other contract sweeteners could be taken back. The University would likely also not offer retroactive pay. The negotiations would continue with the Federal Mediator and job actions, like work-to-rule and rallies, protests etc. would restart in the hope of putting enough pressure on the University to move off its initial offers.
Q. Could we get a contract with a lower salary, for example 15% over six years, and have the term workload proposal removed?
A. That possibility was never formally proposed at the bargaining table and was only recently revisited as a possibility if the contract were not ratified. The term workload proposal is the most controversial aspect of the proposed six-year contract. For that reason, the negotiating team went back to the administration and proposed that the University consider offering the option of a 15% salary increase plus steps over six years, with the term workload proposal entirely removed. All the other tentatively agreed items would remain intact. The University has responded to our proposal and we are prepared to discuss it at tomorrow’s General Membership Meeting.
Q. Why did the negotiating team unanimously recommend this six-year contract?
A. After eight months of negotiations, the team carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the contract offer, and came to the conclusion that it would be prudent to accept the University’s offer. As the team made clear in the memos sent to the membership the decision was made after a great amount of reflection and somewhat reluctantly, since there are some objectionable items in the contract, most particularly the term workload proposal. To briefly remind you of the complete process we engaged in, we held several meetings to elicit the items that the membership ultimately voted upon as our negotiating items. Through the negotiating process the team strove to keep the membership aware of the state of the negotiations, and as you will recall, sought your input in the survey that over 300 of you completed.
(Please click here to see all memos:https://www.dropbox.com/s/ne428au0mhev0nh/List%20of%20USFFA%20Memos%202-16-17.docx?dl=0
In the unanimous view of the team, the advantages of the contract are the following:
1. National Politics: The political climate today is obviously very uncertain. If the Trump administration begins a trade war with China, it is possible that USF will see a precipitous decline in foreign student tuition revenue. Already USF has a budget deficit this year, though as we never fail to point out, that deficit was caused by administrative mismanagement. The six-year deal locks in the salary and other negotiated items for a substantial period of time. Trump’s attitude towards unions is also uncertain, his pick for Labor Secretary is anti-union, and the staffing of the NLRB and changes in labor law could impose serious headwinds for the USFFA in the next four years and beyond.
2. Security: While the option of coming back to the negotiating table in three years and getting a better deal will not be available to us under this six-year deal, the fact that healthcare costs will be known and remain stable for six years is very important considering the health insurance changes the Trump administration is considering. Moreover, we will have locked-in a series of contract sweeteners for six years, including sabbatical merit pay, an increase to the Emeriti program, a raise to the commuter checks, an extra million dollars in the mortgage assistance and rental subsidy fund, continued increases in the Faculty Development Funds.etc. Additionally we would be guaranteed of no further changes to workload.
3. Risk-reward: The 17% salary increase over six years (2-2-2-3-4-4) means we will receive quite modest raises over a long time period. However, it also means that, in the end, we did not give into the “New Normal,” which could have meant accepting 2% raises indefinitely. The negotiating team does not believe it would have been possible to get a three-year contract of 3% per year or more without a sustained and very aggressive fight. We also took into account the risk of substantive take-aways such as health care cost increases. The fact that our membership voted 2-1 in the survey to accept the current offer buttresses that perception. At best, one could have hoped to go back to the bargaining table and get 3% per year for for three years. But by any
risk/reward calculation, it seems ultimately more prudent to accept a bird in the hand now of 17% for six years rather than a risky bird in the bush of 9% over three years.
4. Considering the Alternatives: as terrible as the term workload proposal is, the team was able to modify several aspects of the contract proposals regarding term faculty. The administration originally wanted 35 new term positions over seven years and we chiseled that down to 23 over six years. The administration originally wanted newly hired term faculty to do a 4/4 workload for the first four years, and we brought that down to two years. We were also able to insert language in the side letter which explicitly says the new workload contradicts the CBA and will expire at the end of the life of the contract. Further we were able to insert language in the side letter that makes the 4/4 workload an option for the Dean rather than imposed by default. Going back to the negotiating table means possibly having to renegotiate some or all of the term proposals, including the proposal establishing term sabbaticals. So, while we are certainly not happy with the term workload proposal, we were able to win for term faculty a number of meaningful changes, including an increase in the possible length of a contract (to ten years), the opportunity to apply for a sabbatical as well as the opportunity to apply for sabbatical merit pay, to which the administration was adamantly opposed during much of the eight month plus period of negotiations.