Update to BUF sent June 22, 2020
As negotiations intensify, we want to keep you updated on how things are going. We plan to provide these updates weekly. This is our second regularly scheduled update.
Akron-AAUP and The University of Akron began contract negotiations for a two-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) at the beginning of 2020 and reached a tentative two-year agreement. Then COVID-19 hit. The University suspended further action on the agreement while it dealt with the pandemic. They re-initiated discussions in late April with a different reality facing us. Since then we have met ten times.
We are negotiating with the Administration to get the best agreement possible to bring back to the membership for a vote. It might be fairer to say we are working hard to get the least damaging agreement possible for faculty, students, and the University. The University is in a difficult financial position, so this will be a concessionary agreement.
The contractual context of these negotiations:
The two key articles of the CBA that are applicable to these negotiations are Article 15, “Retrenchment,” and in particular, Section 12—the force majeure provision, and Article 33, “Duration,” and in particular, Section 3—the mid-term modification provision.
The Administration is planning substantial layoffs of bargaining unit faculty (BUF) that are not in accordance with the order set forth in Article 15 Section 6, or with the notice requirements set forth in Section 7. The Administration claims that on the basis of force majeure in Section 12, it is not bound by any of the provisions in Sections 1-11 of Article 15. The Chapter disputes that interpretation and has filed a grievance.
Pursuant to Article 33, if exigent circumstances arise, the University can require the Chapter to negotiate with respect to mid-term modifications to attempt to reach an agreement and, if no agreement is reached, to go to binding arbitration; that is, the arbitrator would determine the mid-term modifications, if any. Those modifications could include any provision of the contract–wages, healthcare, retrenchment, etc. So right now, we are negotiating for a comprehensive agreement under Article 33, which would last through the end of 2021.
When a final offer is complete:
The membership will vote on the University’s last, best, and final offer. Based on the current process, we anticipate that process will begin mid-July, with the ratification vote occurring at the end of July. If the membership approves that final offer, then there will be no arbitration regarding the Chapter’s Article 15 grievance or under Article 33. The parties will have a collective bargaining agreement through December 31, 2021 (with the exception of retiree dependent healthcare—discussed below) and will begin bargaining for a successor agreement during the fall semester 2021. If the membership rejects the final offer, then the parties will arbitrate both the Article 15 grievance and the issues under Article 33. We would anticipate that arbitration occurring mid-August. The arbitrator’s decision would apply for the duration of the current CBA—through December 31, 2020. We would begin negotiating a successor agreement immediately following the arbitrator’s decision.
Tentative agreements (TAs) between the Administration and the Chapter:
In the spirit of shared sacrifice, and contingent on reaching agreement on other, outstanding issues including the number of layoffs, the Chapter has tentatively agreed to the following.
Wages: The same percentage cuts the Board announced for other employees. Those cuts would be for the next academic year and would “snap back” on July 1, 2021 to the wages in effect as of FYE 2020. That tentative agreement is here.
Healthcare: Increases in employee health care contributions intended to reach the same savings as if the parameters applied to other employees were applied to the BUF, although with a different structure that we believe is more equitable. Those increases would be in effect for the calendar year 2021. That tentative agreement is here.
Other Provisions: Many of the tentative agreements that were reached in the earlier negotiation before the campus shutdown.Those TAs are here.
Duration: The new collective bargaining agreement will be effective September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021. When negotiating a successor agreement in fall 2021, we would seek to negotiate a wage increase retroactive to July 1, 2021, as we have done historically at the end of the contract period. We would negotiate healthcare for the calendar year 2022 as part of a new collective bargaining agreement. Presumably, we would negotiate a multi-year new agreement, but that would be subject to negotiation.
Topics on which there is no agreement yet between the Administration and the Chapter:
Furloughs: The Administration wants there to be a furlough policy that applies to bargaining unit faculty. Furloughing faculty presents unique issues. At this point, we are not close to a resolution. The chapter’s proposal is here.
We have rejected the administration’s proposed furlough language for the faculty because it would have been impossible to implement while still maintaining educational quality for our students and fairness for our members; instead, we re-asserted our proposal. If the Administration sticks to the language of their original proposal, then it would constitute a poison pill and, in our view, would mean they have no intention of trying to reach an agreement that has any chance of passing.
Layoffs: We understand the Administration has a tentative list of faculty it wants to permanently lay off. We have not seen it. We hope to see it by Monday, June 22. We will not be able to disclose the tentative list to anyone, or the number of faculty on it until after the BOT has approved the final list. However, based on the average reduction in the college budgets of 25%, we believe that the number of proposed layoffs will be substantial.
We intend to meet with the Administration in an effort to reduce the list. That list may be modified up until the time the Board of Trustees approves the list, which we understand will be at a special meeting in mid-July. The Administration has informed us that everyone on the list will get advance notice of that fact. That list will be part of the last, best, and final offer we receive from the Administration and subject to the membership’s vote. Our ratification process will begin immediately after the Board meeting.
Limitation on increased teaching load: The Chapter has proposed that if any faculty are to teach additional courses, those increases should be agreed to by both parties and would exclude those Assistant Professors working toward tenure and promotion and those already teaching a 12/12 load. Further, any increase in teaching will not result in an increase in overall work assignment. The administration has taken the position that workload is not bargainable; we disagree.
Limitation on others doing bargaining unit work: The Chapter has not made a specific proposal regarding this issue and will not do so until we get the list of potential layoffs, but we have raised this issue with the administration. We intend to propose a limit on the use of visiting and adjunct faculty.
Relief for those laid off: The administration has maintained that it cannot afford any additional benefit for those who will be laid off. The negotiating team is considering whether to make a specific proposal.
Regarding retiree dependent healthcare:
As part of a final offer, the Administration initially insisted that the Chapter agree to eliminate dependent retiree healthcare effective January 1, 2021. The Chapter made clear that it would not voluntarily accept such a provision. Therefore, the parties have agreed that if an overall agreement is reached, with the exception of dependent retiree healthcare, then as part of the overall agreement, that matter will be presented to the arbitrator to render a binding decision. If the University’s final offer is rejected and the parties proceed to arbitration under Article 33 (and Article 15), then there is no agreement to permit the arbitrator to resolve this issue and by contract, the arbitrator’s authority extends only through the term of the existing agreement (December 31, 2020), so the arbitrator would have no jurisdiction to address an issue beyond that date. Accordingly, absent agreement, the arbitrator cannot address the dependent retiree healthcare, because its continuation or termination would not be effective until January 1, 2021. That issue would be addressed between the parties as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Communications Committee of Akron-AAUP