Bargaining Update – July 23, 2020

We have two bits of news to report from this week’s bargaining.  The main topic was the BOT’s counterproposal on Article 13, Layoffs.  The teams also agreed to sign a Memorandum of Agreement guaranteeing that Promotion increases and Sustained Performance Increases will go through in early August, regardless of the status of on-going negotiations.

Guaranteed Promotion and SPI raises are great news that will allow many faculty to heave sighs of relief. Unfortunately, the BOT proposal on the Layoffs and Recall article will not have the same effect.  

You can find that proposal here.  While this document does not show changes from the UFF’s most recent proposal because the BOT did not use traditional legislative markup style (track changes), we will provide that version upon request. It’s clear that the BOT responded to none of our proposals but instead rewrote the article from scratch to include only their desired terms. Below we summarize three key differences between the BOT proposal and the language that has been in place for years.

Perhaps the BOT’s most egregious effort is the redefinition of “layoff unit” to include, for the first time, “centers,” “institutes,” and “operational areas,” which are “a subset of a school, college, division, department, or office, and need not encompass the whole unit.”  We pointed out that many faculty are affiliated with centers or institutes in addition to their departments, and this language creates a strong incentive to drop those affiliations because they create a layoff hazard.

They explained that such an outcome was not their intention.  They noted that they had excised existing language granting them a great deal of leeway by permitting layoffs at any “other level of organization as the University deems appropriate,” and that their goal was clarity, not narrowing the layoff unit.  We are certainly pleased to see some discretion removed, but including smaller units does narrow the layoff unit, and the clarity goal is still far distant.  Adding to the clarity problem is that they added ill-conceived language about degrees and majors. Students are related to degrees and majors; faculty are not. Many teach in more than one degree program, for example. The teams agreed that everyone should know ahead of time what their layoff unit is, and we all agreed to work towards that goal.

Equally troubling was the removal of long-standing language specifying that faculty lacking tenure but with more than five years of service have greater protection than those with less. The BOT team explained that five years was “a number that might not make much sense,” as little difference exists between someone here for five rather than four years.  We insisted that the people with more than five years of service had demonstrated a commitment to the University and had a right to expect that commitment to be acknowledged.  Moreover, many contractual relationships faculty have with the University rely on arbitrary dates.  You are vested in the FRS pension plan after 8 years, you have 45 days to file a grievance, and you have five years before you can go up for tenure. What the five-year rule does is make it harder to pick and choose who to lay off.  If the arbitrariness of five years is an issue, we said that we are open to substituting a continuous metric.

The final substantial change for the worse is the removal of language requiring the University to help laid-off faculty find other University employment to apply for. The BOT explained that faculty, not Human Resources, are in the best position to identify jobs they are qualified for and interested in. We said that such a hands-off policy in the face of dire life-changing circumstances was unnecessarily cruel, but the BOT was adamant that they were not heartless and merely wanted to lay out a more “direct path” for faculty to follow.  They would of course work to help faculty find alternative University employment, they said.  We hope this is the case, but are concerned by their repeated efforts to remove that commitment from the contract. 

Less important but nevertheless troubling changes include removing UFF-proposed wording stipulating that layoffs should be a last resort, removing the existing requirement of a 30-day notice to the UFF of impending layoffs, and wordsmithing existing language to minimize the role of seniority in some layoff decisions.

We have two bargaining sessions scheduled for week-after-next:  Monday, August 3, at 2:00 and Thursday August 6 at 10:00.  Bargaining sessions are open to faculty, and if you would like to attend please respond to this message and we will send you the links when we receive them.  Please try to come, as faculty attendance strengthens our position.

We also invite members to come to an online Bargaining Forum happy hour this evening at 5:00.  Members (note that this event is only for members) have received an invitation and zoom link from UFF Vice President Jack Fiorito.

The key to a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together.

All best,
Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs, Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU

About Scott Hannahs

UFF-FSU Co-Chief Negotiator
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