Bargaining Update, August 5, 2011

Bargaining Update
August 5, 2011

Summary: The UFF and the BOT bargaining teams met Monday, August 1st and Wednesday, August 3rd to continue salary negotiations (Article 23 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement or CBA) that began in June and continued throughout July.
The good news is that both sides are in substantial agreement about implementing a three percent (3%) raise; the only disagreement on this issue is whether or not the lowest-paid faculty receive a minimum payment, which is what the UFF proposes and the BOT is considering.

The bad news is that agreement on the salary article has been delayed. The BOT (Board of Trustees) bargaining team claims that the delay might mean that none of the upcoming academic year’s salary changes–including promotion raises and the three-percent raise–can be administered by the start of the new pay period. The UFF is willing to meet continually to reach an agreement, would sign an agreement today that permits these raises to go through, and will negotiate to have any raises applied retroactively if agreement isn’t reached before the first paycheck. The dispute centers on the language of the one-time “merit” bonus. The UFF believes that the evaluation procedures as written in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), elaborated in department bylaws, and approved by various levels of the administration must be respected. The BOT team instead wants to circumvent the language in the contract and retroactively apply a different distribution scheme.

The UFF faculty team members certainly understand that some of this news will be disappointing or even alarming to faculty members. We cannot, however, allow vital principles to be sacrificed. Shared governance, including faculty-developed merit criteria and procedures, departmental autonomy, and a real faculty say in the determination of salaries and other terms of employment are too important. We ask for your patience, understanding, and support, and we welcome your feedback.

Below are the details of salary negotiations so far.

Merit Awards

President Barron’s June 28th email announcement proposed a “merit increase as a one-time bonus” that would award $2000 to 25% of the faculty, $1000 to 25% of the faculty, and nothing to 50% of the faculty. There was no mention of existing, approved department/unit procedures for merit awards and distributions. That proposal has evolved slightly, as evidenced in the first written proposal from the BOT team presented on August 3rd (see below).

Disagreement centers on distribution. The BOT team proposes two levels of awards and a minimum payment of $1,000, with a fixed amount of funding per department/unit faculty member ($750). This is designed to ensure that faculty in the bottom half or thereabouts of the merit distribution receive nothing. In case this procedure yields results that fail to reward “performance that exceeds expectations,” the proposal creates two layers of review: Deans can reject the results, as can the Provost. There appears to be a fear among the BOT team that many faculty members are non-meritorious and might be improperly rewarded.

You can read the BOT salary proposal here:

BOT Proposal of August 3rd

The UFF agrees that rewarding meritorious performance is important, that merit awards should not be distributed as if they were across-the-board awards, and that not everyone should receive one. We disagree, however, about the desirability of creating a new after-the-fact distribution procedure, and we reject the assumption that existing procedures fail to distinguish different levels of performance and reward.

Departments/units already have established procedures for merit allocation that faculty members recently debated and voted on and that were approved by Deans and by the Dean of the Faculties, who would not have approved plans that produced across-the-board results. To distribute bonuses for annual performance evaluations for 2010 (conducted earlier this year) on some other, new, basis—one that assumes a great many faculty members are non-meritorious regardless of what department/unit assessments indicate—makes the notion of shared governance laughable. Just as grading criteria are not allowed to be changed once the semester has begun (according to the FSU Faculty Handbook), the rules for evaluating and rewarding merit should not be changed six months after the evaluation. Approved procedures are in place. Established, approved procedures should be used.

In response to the BOT team’s initial oral presentation of President Barron’s proposal in bargaining, the UFF faculty bargaining team in mid-July prepared an analysis of actual merit distributions made previously under department/unit criteria and procedures. Analyses of merit awards made in 2006 (the last such award; merit salary increases that averaged 1.1%) show that fears about merit distributions resembling across-the-board distributions are misplaced. Using department/unit procedures along with a modest allocation to “Dean’s Merit” as called for in our CBA (specifically, a 2006 Memorandum of Agreement specifying salaries for 2006-07) resulted in substantial variation in awards and substantial numbers of faculty members (one-third) receiving no merit increase at all.

You can read the UFF faculty bargaining team’s analysis here:

Merit Concerns

There are various other problems with the BOT proposal regarding merit awards. One is language that seeks to reward only faculty “who are exceeding performance expectations.” Unlike staff, faculty do not have formal “performance expectations” beyond meeting the “satisfactory” criterion on annual evaluations; there is no “exceeds” category. So then who would determine what it means to exceed performance expectations? Is leaving it solely up to Deans, the Provost, and the President the answer? The principle of shared governance says “no.” The only appropriate way that performance can be determined is by departments/units, which have already done the assessments. Those assessments should be used.

The UFF is also concerned with the BOT proposal to axe the term “merit” to describe these awards. The only conceivable reason is that if the awards are technically not “merit” awards, then they do not need to conform to contract language, which could not be clearer about how merit funds are distributed. Article 23.1(b) says “Merit-based salary increases and bonuses are based on the duties assigned pursuant to Article 9 and the faculty evaluation criteria and procedures established by departments/units pursuant to Article 10.” Article 10 (Evaluations) is equally clear when it says in 10.1(b): “The determination of meritorious performance for the distribution of funds allocated for merit-based salary increases pursuant to Article 23 shall be according to each department/unit’s faculty evaluation criteria and procedures . . .”

Administrative Discretionary Increases

The BOT proposal also includes small but important changes in the language on Administrative Discretionary Increases (ADI), Section 23.9 of the current, 2010-13 contract. The ability to deny the BOT the right to award ADI is one of the few levers available to the faculty bargaining team under Florida law. In other words, the BOT’s authority to provide discretionary raises for “counter offers,” “endowed/named chairs,” “extraordinary accomplishments,” “equity adjustments,” and “increased duties and responsibilities” is a creation of our contract. Even small changes that modify the ADI provisions of Sec. 23.9 – such as those proposed by the BOT team to extend the life of these provisions beyond the life of other salary provisions (compare the BOT proposal 23.10 (1) and 23.15 to the current 23.9(a)) – can be critically important.

Where Things Stand

Concerns with the BOT proposal led the UFF faculty team to draft a counter proposal for discussion during the August 3rd bargaining session. It was prepared under time pressure and presented with that pressure noted as a reason for some rough edges (e.g., passages such as “insert BOT proposed text here”) of no real importance. A cleaned up version of the UFF faculty team proposal was subsequently prepared, and sent to the BOT team

The UFF proposal is available here:

UFF Counterproposal of August 3rd

The BOT team expressed disappointment with the UFF proposal but was unavailable to bargain later in the week and indicated that the remaining scheduled bargaining sessions this summer might not be held. They adjourned the meeting (which had run long) by noting that by virtue of not meeting the BOT deadline, raises were unlikely to be included in the first paycheck of the fall semester.

The UFF faculty team is eager to conclude salary negotiations. A memo from a budget officer has been circulating claiming that failure to reach an agreement by early August means that the three percent raise will not appear in our first paycheck and will not be made retroactive. It may be inconvenient to make the payment retroactively, but doing so is a proper subject of bargaining and is well within the realm of the possible. Nonetheless, the UFF team is willing to meet with the BOT team daily, if need be, to reach an agreement so that retroactivity will not be necessary. And the UFF is willing to sign Memoranda of Agreement to allow timely implementation of promotion raises and the three percent raise, as there is no substantial disagreement on these.

Again, your patience, understanding, support, and feedback are appreciated.

The UFF-FSU Faculty Bargaining Team.
Co-Chairs: Scott Hannahs (shannahs@fsu.edu) and Irene Padavic (ipadavic@fsu.edu)

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