Negotiations Update #5: August 26, 2019

See video

It was the University’s turn to present, and the first thing that they did was insult us and attempt to divide our membership by taking retro pay off the table. In numerous Labor Management meetings this spring, the University reiterated that they would not be able to discuss any financial issues until after the Board of Regents passed a budget in mid-June and

that there wasn’t a need to sit down to bargain before then. Now they are saying that 1) bargaining is taking too long; 2) that it is too complicated for payroll staff to calculate retro pay; and 3) that the compensation instructions for Civil Service (who are not unionized and who do not collectively bargain) provide the guidelines for our wage increases. We categorically rejected their posturing. We know that their budget parameters are for the entire fiscal year, so refusing retro pay is taking money out of worker’s paychecks. We also know that the staff who enter payroll are AFSCME members who are incredibly skilled at their jobs and are more than capable of doing their jobs. The University wouldn’t discuss finances until days before the contract expired, so retro pay was always going to be an issue. The management committee also made clear by their comments that retro pay would likely be back on the
table as a bargaining chip at the end of negotiations. Their maneuvering was insulting to all the frontline staff who work hard every day to make this University work and who deserve real raises.

We also told the University in no uncertain terms that we have been waiting for 10 years for the University to make good on their commitment to reduce the number of steps it takes to get to the top of the wage scale. We are Done Waiting. The time is now to address our wage scales.

In addition to wages, we had planned on discussing health insurance. However, we were told that Ken Horstman, Director of Employee Benefits, would not be joining us. The University is attempting to increase our rates by 11% and is planning to get rid of the premium relief program, which benefits lower wage workers at the U (most of whom are unionized staff). They have been unwilling to discuss our health proposals, and we are demanding that Ken Horstman meet with us to bargain health insurance.

Another top priority for our members is our proposal for bereavement leave that is a set aside and does not require using sick or vacation. P&A employees do have bereavement leave separate from sick and vacation. Our demand is for unionized staff (and Civil Service) to have the same separate leave. The U gave us their convoluted position that P&A have a different type of sick and vacation policy due to being salaried employees, and so really, we all have similar bereavement leave. We asked them if there would ever be an instance in which a P&A employee would be forced to take time off without pay to attend a family member’s funeral. They said no - there is always a minimum amount of paid bereavement leave. We pointed out that for unionized staff, if you have used all your sick and vacation to care for a loved one who dies, you would have to take time off without pay to grieve. This is inequitable and unacceptable. The ability to mourn our loved ones is just as important for us as it is for P&A staff.

The University finally agreed to our non-binary language proposal to replace he or she in the contract with “they”. For two months, the U has held to a position that he or she should be replaced with the term “the employee”, while we maintained that we are human beings with identities beyond “the employee”. Not to mention the awkward reading of directly substituting he or she with “the employee” in most sentences. Today, they finally conceded our point and agreed to our proposal. Meanwhile, our other proposals were met with rejection and little
discussion.

Our locals have developed in-depth proposals to increase the top of the pay scale and reduce the number of steps to get there. We have been pushing for so-called step compression for 10 years. We are #DoneWaiting for movement from the U. Frontline staff deserve real raises and we are #FightingForOurFuture in bargaining.