Bargaining over Economics

Union Brothers and Sisters, contract bargaining kicks off again during January. Yes, we did sign a four-year contract last year, but it covered economic issues for only two years. We will reopen the contract next year and bargain economic issues.

What’s an economic issue?

  • Cost of living increases,
  • health insurance,
  • retirement, and
  • steps

are the big ones, but

  • differential pay,
  • selective salary increases,
  • sick leave,
  • personal leave, and
  • holidays—not vacation
  • leave—could come into play.

These economic issues are the meat and potatoes of our contract.

  • How much will you be able to take home if the cost of insurance goes up?
  • What if the universities want to freeze step increases for members who are not topped out on their salary ranges?
  • What about the cost of living increases which many of us depend on, because we’re already at the top of our salary ranges?
  • Perhaps most importantly, what impact will implementation of the long-delayed classification and compensation restructure have on our step system?

Based on comments we’ve heard from the universities’ chief negotiator, our bargaining team anticipates an attempt to get rid of or seriously reduce our current step system. Steps have been a part of the compensation structure for most of us since we began employment with the universities.

The promise behind the step system has always been that, while you start at a lower wage, you will earn a step increase each year as you gain skills and experience at your job until you reach the top of your salary range. This currently takes nine years for those who start at Step 1, so length of service does pay off in the long run. The other advantage our step system provides is fairness and consistency as we move through our salary range. As long as we do our jobs satisfactorily, we don’t have to worry about supervisors choosing to reward some and not others for what they consider superior performance.

I can tell you that our union bargaining team will not agree to any university proposal to eliminate the step system. As far as the classification restructure goes, most of you are probably wondering how the final job classifications turned out. Over the next few months, our union will be holding meetings on
campus to discuss the results of the study. Management did make some adjustments to the job classifications based on the input you offered, but most did not change or changed very little. Unfortunately, they have the management right to make the final decision on job classifications.

We plan to send out an announcement of coming meeting dates; please look for it. One of the things I most want to hear about at these meetings is whether you feel management’s proposed salary range for your job classification is fair and appropriate. Normally, we send you a bargaining survey during September, but we won’t this time, since we are bargaining solely about a small number of economic issues. We will definitely conduct a survey after bargaining begins, however, once we’ve seen the kind of proposals management puts forward.

One more thing. I hope everyone will vote for Ballot Measure 97 (A Better Oregon) in November. While the measure doesn’t directly provide new funds for higher education, if it passes, it will put the state legislature in a position where it can devote more resources to the universities. at will certainly help our students who are struggling to pay for college, and in a very real sense, a YES vote on Ballot Measure 97 is a vote for a wage increase in our upcoming bargaining cycle.

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SEIU Local 085