News From Your Negotiating Team
Click on one of the dates below for the weekly update.
|Oct 22, 2020||Nov 2, 2020||Nov 9, 2020||Nov 17, 2020||Nov 20, 2020|
|Nov 30, 2020||Dec 7, 2020|
We had one negotiations session this week. Before the session, the Chapter presented our most recent response to wage and benefits proposals from the Administration, along with Articles 15 (Retrenchment) and 29 (regarding NTT faculty). The Administration responded with a proposal featuring:
A 1.5-year term for the next contract.
One year of wage reductions and no change to benefits. As of this week, the proposal to increase healthcare contributions is no longer on the table. The Administration is proposing wage cuts of 0-12% (depending on salary) for one year, snapping back to current salaries for the remainder of the contract. These cuts are higher than in previous proposals to achieve savings equivalent to the previously proposed increases in healthcare contributions.
A single rate per credit hour for overload and summer teaching ($2,150) for all faculty of any rank (NTT or TT). This was in response to our proposal of 3 tiers of compensation (Assistant, Associate, and Full for both NTT and TT). This is a complex issue, and we will be surveying you shortly to get your feedback.
You can view the proposals here.
We also discussed making progress on non-controversial proposals, and both sides anticipate being able to sign off on tentative agreements for specific elements of the contract soon. For more information about the most recent negotiations, see Toni’s Take here. Our next negotiation session is December 14, and we won’t have an update until after that.
The team remains hopeful that we can reach an agreement that serves to advance our institution. We will continue to work on your behalf through the rest of the month and into the new year. Best of luck to you and your students as you finish the semester.
We had one session on Monday of Thanksgiving Week. The Administration responded to our wage/benefits package proposal. They have backed off their position that all cuts to wages and increases in employee contributions must be permanent (and we appreciate that change). However, their proposal is essentially the same as their starting position (that is, the same as it was in August and October 2020). We have posted several proposals for you to view here, along with a guide to help you understand what was proposed when. As always, we encourage you to read for yourself what each side is proposing. We will respond to the Administration’s latest proposal before our next negotiations meeting on 12/4/20.
It was good to see you at the Chapter meeting (sorry Rich had technical issues). Some of you asked about posting proposals and survey results. We have posted both sides’ proposals and will continue to do so as the negotiations unfold. We are also committed to sharing the survey results, but not until the negotiations conclude. As you can imagine, whatever those data reveal, releasing it to the Administration would be a disadvantage at the bargaining table. Therefore, we will wait until negotiations conclude to share the data and to explain how we used the data to make decisions.
The Negotiating Team
How YOU Can Help Negotiations
Given the increasing safety concerns around public gatherings during the pandemic, rather than asking you to attend rallies and other events, we are inviting you to show unity and support for our Negotiating Team virtually:
1) Please change the virtual background you use for WebEx, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams meetings to the Akron-AAUP backdrop and use it for all of your meetings. You can see the Biology faculty sporting theirs in the screenshot of their meeting with President Miller (THANK YOU for your support, Biology!).
2) For large meetings when you are asked to turn off your video cameras (e.g., Faculty Senate), here’s a specially configured Akron-AAUP logo to use for your profile pic. You can use the same logo on your social media accounts to show your solidarity.
Thank you in advance for helping our team fight for us at the table.
Open Enrollment, Healthcare and Compensation Negotiations
The Administration’s Healthcare Proposal – in Summary
You recently received a message from Human Resources about healthcare open enrollment. As we negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Administration is insisting bargaining unit faculty incur a permanent 60% overall increase in healthcare contributions (for more detail, and to see how this would affect you, please see below). In addition, the Administration is proposing to unilaterally extend wage cuts in years two and three if it does so for non-union employees. We find this unacceptable and your Negotiating Team is working on counter proposals in an effort to reach an agreement that addresses the needs of both parties.
To learn more about the Administration’s proposals and the status of contract negotiations, please attend our Chapter meeting today at 9am. An invitation has already been sent to all Chapter members. This is a members only event, and members should already have received their invitation. Pre-registration is required.
Toni’s Take – Article 29 NTT
For an up-to-the-minute and frank discussion of negotiations by NT member Toni Bisconti, visit her YouTube page. Newly added is an interview with Stephanie Yuhas which clarifies the Chapter’s and Administration’s proposals for Article 29, NTT. Stephanie is an Associate Professor of Practice in Criminal Justice, an attorney, and a member of our Negotiating Team.
Why are we in this situation?
Because the current CBA expires December 31, 2020, and negotiations are ongoing, the health care contributions for Akron-AAUP-represented faculty for 2021 have not yet been determined. There will still be an open enrollment period for faculty before the year ends so that dependent changes and other elections can be made for 2021, even if there is not yet an agreement on contributions. You should receive information from HR about open enrollment no later than December 2. The open enrollment period for AAUP-represented faculty will be December 7 through December 17.
The Chapter began negotiating a new agreement in January and had reached a tentative agreement with the Administration right before the pandemic hit Ohio. Due to the pandemic, the Administration set aside that tentative agreement and began asking for significant concessions on healthcare and wages in addition to a drastic reduction in force, which the chapter members rejected in the ratification vote last August. We began negotiations again in October, and as yet, we do not have an agreement on healthcare.
The Administration is asking for a 60% overall increase in healthcare contributions from the bargaining unit faculty (current aggregate contributions for healthcare would increase from ~$1 million to ~$1.6 million). On average, the employee contribution toward PPO plans like ours at public Ohio higher education institutions is 16-17% of the cost (source: State Employee Relations Board Health Insurance Report, p. 27). In our current contract, we contribute 18-23% (depending on income) for the Gold Plan; the Administration is proposing we pay 18-42%. It is requiring non-union employees at the University who make at least $50,000 to pay at least 30%.
The Administration is now claiming that these new contribution levels would be a permanent increase. The Administration is resisting a “snap-back” to current contribution levels in year 2 of our CBA, claiming that other employees will continue to pay these drastic increases. This is in contrast with what it told the University community over the summer, when it repeatedly referred to these increases as temporary measures to address the projected $65M deficit for this year (see this excerpt of the July 15 Board Minutes). Currently, most employees making more than $50,000 will pay 30 to 34% for health benefits next year. Even though no other bargaining unit has a CBA extending past June 2021, the Administration asserts that it intends these increases to be permanent for union and non-union employees, as well as the wage reductions taken by certain bargaining units over the summer. We have offered two separate counter-proposals that would settle the health care contribution issue for 2021, and the Administration has rejected both with no significant movement on their side.
What happens next?
As we have detailed in our previous updates, the two sides are far apart. Some of you have asked questions about what will happen, given that the CBA ends 12/31/20. We will continue to negotiate, and sometime soon we will select a fact finder. Fact-finding involves a third party who looks at both parties’ positions and issues a report as to whose side they agree with on the remaining issues in dispute. After the fact finder’s report is issued (likely no sooner than the end of January), either side has 14 days to reject the report by an affirmative 3/5 vote of the Board of Trustees or the Chapter membership.
If the fact finder’s report is NOT rejected, that becomes the new contract. If it IS rejected, the Board of Trustees can implement their last, best, and final offer and we can strike. The parties can also keep negotiating to reach a new agreement. Before we can strike, we need to hold a strike authorization vote, and if that vote passes (by simple majority), we need to give 10 days’ notice of intent to strike. Until a new agreement is reached or imposed (likely Feb or March 2021), all terms and conditions of employment stay the same as those stipulated in the CBA.
We hope this answers some questions for you. As you can see above, many important votes are in our near future. Only Chapter members can vote, and these are issues that will have a great impact on your working life at The University of Akron. We encourage you to talk to your colleagues about joining the Akron-AAUP.
The Communications Committee of Akron-AAUP
The Administration’s Proposed Salary Reductions
The Administration’s Proposed Health Care Contributions – Gold Plan
How This Affects You
Combined Examples (based on 2020 Health Care Rates)
This week we had two sessions with the mediator (on November 9th and 13th). I am not going into detail on those sessions, but here are some general points of interest to the BUF:
- The Administration rejected our counter-proposal to address healthcare for the bargaining unit for the duration of the agreement and for the dependents of retirees hired before 1992 in Year 1.
- If you were hired before 1992, you have a health benefit for your spouse and dependents upon your retirement. If you were hired after 1992, this does not apply to you. The Administration’s position is that they have the right to end retiree spouse and dependent health insurance and retiree life insurance benefits as of the end of this contract (12/31/20), regardless of whether we have reached a new agreement. They proposed to extend retiree spouse and dependent health benefits to 3/31/21 if we agree to other concessions. If we do not reach an agreement, the Administration said they will eliminate both benefits effective the end of this contract—12/31/20.
- The Administration’s position is that they likely are legally precluded from providing any benefit for faculty laid off as part of the Reduction-In-Force (RIF) this summer. The Administration’s outside counsel told us that after consulting with the Ohio Attorney General’s office, the University likely cannot provide a benefit to individuals who are not currently employees unless it is in the context of settling active litigation. The Administration does not consider the Chapter’s pending unfair labor practice charge regarding tuition remission, or the pending class action grievance, or the grievance regarding tuition remission to constitute sufficient liability for the University to be considered “active litigation.” Apparently, their view is that, to meet this condition, there would have to be a lawsuit against the University. We have requested the University to follow through on its request for a written opinion from the Attorney General’s office. Their outside counsel has promised to do so.
- The Administration’s position is that the layoffs of the faculty under the RIF action this summer was a concession from our bargaining unit, but was not materially different from concessions by any other unit on campus. Hence, they are seeking wage and benefit concessions from the bargaining unit to match the concessions accepted by (or imposed upon) the other groups of employees when there was a projected $65 million deficit earlier this year, even though the budget adopted for this year only calls for a $7.8 million draw on reserves.
- The administration acknowledges that faculty are working harder as a result of the layoffs, but they are unwilling to say if that is any more or less than other employees.
In summary, mediation this week did not bring the two sides closer together. Even though the administration asserts that they want a deal, they have not moved significantly from what are, in our view, extreme anti-faculty positions. We do not think these are positions that the bargaining unit would accept.
Please watch for another survey this week. It is absolutely critical that we receive your feedback promptly.
Rich Londraville, Chief Negotiator, on behalf of the Negotiating Team
We had 3 negotiation sessions this week, and I am going to stick to the highlights:
There is no truth to the rumor that the Administration is currently planning another round of layoffs. This was emphatically denied by the other side’s legal counsel, which was then verified by the Administration.
We presented our proposals on Articles 15 (Retrenchment) and 29 (NTT) to the Administration.
We received proposals from the Administration on wages and benefits. Some important points:
- The Administration is essentially proposing that the BUF take the same concessions that were proposed in the failed ratification agreement from August (you can find that here). These include decreases in wages and increases in healthcare contributions. A few important distinctions are that they are asking us to take these concessions over the life of the contract (3 years) in the case of healthcare contributions. For wages, our concession would be for 1 calendar year (regardless of when the contract starts), and then snap back to our current wages, followed by no wage increases for the remainder of the contract. Also, if the non-bargaining unit employees have further wage concessions imposed on them in years 2 and 3 of the contract, BUF would be required to take those same concessions without the right to bargain over them.
- We presented a counter-proposal to their healthcare proposal. In exchange for 1-year of increased contributions (snapping back to the current rate of contributions in years 2 and 3), the Administration would pay severance and provide tuition benefits for the RIF faculty (the RIF would have to sign a waiver not to pursue legal action to receive the severance). The administration responded that they are waiting on an opinion from the Attorney General’s office as to the legality of providing payments to non-employees.
We had a detailed presentation from Interim CFO Dr. Storck. Some takeaways:
- The budget information we were presented assumes a 15% decline in enrollment. The actual decline in Fall 2020 enrollment is 7.2%; however, Dr. Storck is concerned that other data (e.g. first-year enrollment declines) are a better reflection of enrollment trends. When pressed, Dr. Storck stated that currently the University has $8.6 million more than projected; however, he cautioned that we will not know the economic effects of the pandemic on the University’s finances for some time.
- The draw on University reserves in the budget adopted for this fiscal year is $7.8 million, significantly less than the $65 million deficit projected in April
- The University is greatly concerned about its Composite Financial Index score (one measure of the financial health of the University) and is seeking to reduce retiree liability to improve that score.
- The administration recognizes that their history of inaccurate budgets is a problem.
- We pushed hard on Athletics’ budgets, and Provost Wiencek pushed hard back.
It is fair to say that at this point the two sides are far apart. Next week we have two mediation sessions scheduled, and I will be prohibited from giving any details about those sessions. Let’s hope the mediator can bring us together.
As always, your chapter needs your help. Please contact us to find out how you can work to make us better and more effective (NT@akronaaup.org).
Rich Londraville, Chief Negotiator, on behalf of the Negotiating Team
Last week we had two negotiation sessions – the first on Wednesday 10/28, and the second on Friday 10/30. We are still in the beginning phases where each side is presenting their proposals, but we did learn a fair bit about what the administration is proposing.
The Administration proposes changes to how Title IX investigations are handled due to changes in federal regulation; we are still evaluating their proposal.
The Administration proposes extensive changes to Article 15 (Retrenchment). Among them, retrenchment could be invoked based on financial projections rather than demonstrated financial shortfalls. Additionally, all faculty could be released without regard to rank.
The Administration proposes changes to Article 29 that affect job security for non-tenure track faculty. They propose that all NTT faculty can be released with 45 days notice, regardless of rank, and during term contracts.
The Administration proposes to eliminate fact finding from the negotiations’ process (they assert it is not useful and is also expensive).
We outlined our general assertion that faculty are owed compensation for development of distance learning materials, as described in Article 20.
In general, the negotiations are businesslike, cordial, and even friendly (with a few terse back-and-forths thrown in – see Toni’s Take for a better sense of the mood of negotiations). However, the positive feeling I had last week got a harsh reality check when we saw the nature of their proposals. We will post their proposals here as soon as we have ours ready (probably later in the day today). Whether the extreme nature of the Administration’s proposals is simply a tactic or their view of reality remains to be determined. My opinion is that the Administration does indeed want to ratify a contract and (at some level) knows that pushing an extreme position won’t work. Ultimately that is up to you – our members. Please get involved and talk to your colleagues about what is happening.
Rich Londraville, Chief Negotiator, on behalf of the Negotiating Team
We held our first negotiation session with the administration’s team Wednesday. This was a ‘negotiation over negotiations’, where we each presented an outline of the articles for negotiation. The goal was to determine if we could agree on an abbreviated set of articles (resulting in streamlined negotiations), or if we did not agree and needed to negotiate a majority of the contract (resulting in protracted negotiations). The session was cordial and productive, and we agreed upon a set of articles that can be negotiated in a streamlined fashion. We consider this a good sign, in that streamlined negotiations could mean that we can achieve an agreement without great acrimony between the parties. Of course, we know that the devil will be in the details. Still, a positive session is just that – positive.
Here is a list of the issues (and the Chapter’s position) that will form the focus of the Fall 2020 negotiations:
Force Majeure: FM needs to be removed from the contract to improve job stability for all faculty, to safeguard tenure, and to ensure the quality of our academic programs for our students.
The order of release of all faculty, TT and NTT, must be clarified, with rank and tenure taken into consideration.
All non-bargaining unit faculty should be released before any bargaining unit faculty in retrenchment.
Path to tenure for qualified NTT faculty: NTT faculty who meet the published qualifications for a tenure track position within a unit should be guaranteed an interview.
Job Security for Non-Tenure Track Faculty: NTT faculty should have longer fixed terms, and it should be clear that the administration cannot fire NTT with no notice.
Financial Transparency: The financial circumstances that trigger retrenchment must be clearly defined.
Wages and Benefits:
Wage and Benefits proposals will be advanced that accurately reflect the current state of the University’s finances, and not speculation about future catastrophes.
Relief for faculty on the RIF list will be proposed.
Stipends for significant service assignments given to NTT will be proposed.
We will advocate for the maintenance of retiree dependent healthcare benefits.
Ongoing Dialogue with the Board of Trustees. We will propose a standing committee with membership from the Faculty Senate, Akron-AAUP, the Administration and the Board of Trustees.
Policy Review in the OAA. Fundamental required policies that are essential to faculty work life (such as workload and merit policies) must be reviewed and approved in a timely fashion.
Language Improvements in the CBA. We will seek to resolve inconsistencies in the language of the CBA, which were at the root of significant disputes with the administration last summer.
Representation of Akron-AAUP during President and Provost searches. We will propose formal input from the AAUP during the Presidential and Provost search processes.
Tenure clock extensions. We will propose tenure clock extensions in cases of serious illness, becoming the primary caregiver for a family member, being called up for military service, immigration issues, and/or unforeseen circumstances due to the pandemic.
TT and NTT on the same evaluation calendar. We will propose to realign the NTT evaluation calendar with the TT RTP calendar.
Aligning Distance Learning policy with today’s reality. The pandemic introduced all BUF to distance learning by force. Our CBA must reflect the realities of teaching and course development over the past year.
The Chapter will seek a 3 or 4-year contract.
In addition to the above, the administration wishes to negotiate over changes to the CBA that may be required by new Title IX regulations.
We have scheduled negotiations for nearly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through November.
Much of the work on these issues will be done by subcommittees away from the main table of negotiations. Thank you to those of you who have volunteered to help – we always need more help. It’s a critical time for your Akron-AAUP Chapter. We need everyone to pitch in. More hands make lighter work, and you can make your voice heard as part of this important process. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get more involved.
Rich Londraville, Chief Negotiator, on behalf of the Negotiating Team
- Rich Londraville (Professor, Biology), Chief Negotiator
- Stephanie Yuhas (Associate Professor of Practice, Criminal Justice Studies)
- Toni Bisconti (Associate Professor, Psychology)
- Ed Evans (Associate Professor, Chemical, Biomolecular, and Corrosion Engineering)
- Bill Rich (Professor of Law, Emeritus)