February 2012: Collective Bargaining Update

The teams closed the 2011-2012 contract negotiations with agreements that can be found here. Later this month you will be asked to ratify the agreement.

Even though we formally re-opened negotiations for the 2012-13 year in late January, we have been steadily bargaining since May of 2011 on several issues, mainly: nontenure-track (specialized) faculty reclassification project, Performance Evaluations, the Salary Plan for Professors, Promotion & Tenure, Academic Freedom, and Domestic-Partner Benefits. The teams also renegotiated minor changes resulting in MOAs on Voluntary Separation Program, Winter Holidays, and our contract’s Amendment and Duration (Article 31). Details are below the fold.

Nontenure-track (or specialized) faculty reclassification
The two teams are seeking to rationalize the categorization of specialized faculty, a project that spans several articles and requires approval from Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission. The BOT and UFF teams agree on many issues (creation of several new position classifications and elimination of some old ones, procedures for conferring honorific titles, and consistency in criteria and procedures for promotion between librarians and other specialized faculty) but are at odds on others.

The UFF team has proposed that non-renewal can only be for good and sufficient reason. The BOT team believes this provision would unduly curtail their flexibility. Both teams are willing to move forward with continuing multiyear agreements (CMYAs), the second-best choice from the UFF team’s point of view, if other sticking points can be resolved.

The chief such sticking point is the BOT team’s disinterest in any contract language that would follow through on the commitment of the FSU Constitution, the Faculty Senate, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement to preserve a tenured faculty.  The UFF faculty team initially proposed setting a ratio of tenure-track faculty to specialized faculty (NTTF), as proposed by the Faculty Senate.  A ratio of students-to-tenure track faculty was later proposed when the BOT team objected to both the earlier ratio proposal and to the idea of placing caps on specialized faculty duty assignments (also proposed by the Faculty Senate).  The UFF team feels that it would be a disaster with far-reaching repercussions if the UFF faculty team were to agree to the reclassification plan, especially with CMYAs, unless there is some firm protection for the continuation of the tenure-track faculty as an institution — something that is easy to verify and difficult to whittle away.

Although the UFF team strongly prefers a ratio as the mechanism to maintain tenure track faculty as an institution, it was willing to instead consider caps on duty assignments so that specialized faculty who perform both research and teaching should be transferred into tenure-earning positions. This solution was unpopular with the specialized faculty attending a bargaining session in December 2011, reinforcing the UFF team’s commitment to a ratio of tenure-track faculty to specialized faculty.

Performance Evaluations
The BOT team has pushed for more categories than the existing “satisfactory, official concern, inadequate” scheme. The UFF team is willing to accept a greater number of performance evaluation categories but is adamant that the department/unit, not the College and not the University, is a key entity in deciding the distribution of merit funds to individual faculty members.

Salary Plan for Professors
Both teams have agreed to radically simplify the binders for those pre-selected to go up for this award, so these will be much easier to create and evaluate than last time. We also agreed to simplify the process so that it involves fewer committees. The sticking point is over how to determine the group eligible to apply, given the likelihood of restricted funding during the implementation process. Since more Full Professors qualify than can be funded right away, a mechanism needs to be in place to determine which groups can apply first; when the backlog is cleared, a mechanism will no longer be necessary. The UFF team prefers keeping the existing system, which is based on years in rank at FSU (those in rank here the longest are eligible to apply first), but the University does not favor this as a criterion. Both teams are currently working to devise an equation to applied University-wide that will give priority to those Full Professors who are the most severely compressed (on a percentage basis) in their disciplines.

Promotion and Tenure
The BOT team has proposed several changes, including increasing the number of outside letters, the recusal of spouses from P&T votes, and formalizing the review of Assistant Professors in their 2nd and 4th years to replace the present unofficial 3rd-year review.

Academic Freedom
The UFF team is seeking several new protections in this article. The UFF team wants the University to (a) notify any faculty member named in a public records request, (b) provide the faculty member a copy of the information provided to the requester, and (c) allow the faculty member or representative to be present during the redaction process. The BOT team claims that these requests are too difficult to implement.

The BOT team is willing to provide information to faculty about rules regarding records retention and is amenable to expanding the issues covered by academic freedom to include electronic records.

In response to the contentious issue of outside influence in University matters, the UFF team proposed the following language, which the BOT team has resisted: “Decisions about faculty hiring, promotion, tenure, evaluation, annual increase, and curriculum are solely within the discretion of the faculty and BOT. No external organization may exert a decisive influence on such matters.”

Faculty safety in the classroom is another concern, and the UFF team is proposing wording similar to that in the University of Florida Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows faculty to protect themselves and their students from dangerous students.

Domestic Partner Benefits
The UFF team opened the benefits article to try to add domestic partners to those covered, but so far the BOT team does not see its way clear to making progress on this issue. Source of funding for this initiative is the main issue.

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