Blast from the Past: UO Matters on 2014 GTFF Strike

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Trust breaks down, Coltrane says no hardship fund language in the CBA, GTFF strikes

Update: The Register Guard can’t make sense of Coltrane’s actions either. Story here:

The GTFs went into a last-ditch mediation session with UO officials today with a sense of optimism, [UO biology grad student and bargaining team member Steve McAllister] said.

The dispute had winnowed down to a single issue — the union’s demand for two weeks paid medical and parental leave. University bargainers proposed a way out in the form of creating a $150,000 graduate student hardship fund that students could tap for $1,000 or $1,500 in the case of illness or the birth of a child.

The rub: The university refused to write the specifics of how the hardship fund would operate, including details about eligibility, into the proposed two-year contract, union leaders said. …

The university did not clarify why it doesn’t support detailing the hardship fund operations in the contract for the GTFs, and then administer the fund for those graduate students without fellowships in an identical manner.

The graduate student federation is adamant that the terms belong in a legally enforceable contract, McAllister said.

“What we basically have today is they’ve said, ‘Hey, we’ll do this great program for you’ and we’ve said, ‘Great. Do you promise?’ And they’ve said, ‘Well, no. We don’t.’

Meanwhile, the breakdown in trust in the UO administration has driven another spike in UO Matters readership:

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This is not a healthy situation. The UO administration should be a credible voice on important matters like this. People shouldn’t have to rely on an opinionated blogger like me, who has to pay for UO public records with occasional raids on my scotch budget.

Unfortunately, the millions of dollars that Johnson Hall has poured into PR flacks and “Around the 0”, coupled with the disingenuous and confused email messages on this strike from Scott Coltrane, Frances Bronet, Barbara Altmann and Doug Blandy, and Dave Hubin’s willingness to abuse Oregon’s public records law to hide information, have, in Scott Coltrane’s passive words, meant that “Trust has broken down”. Presumably Coltrane will present a plan for fixing that at Wednesday’s Senate meeting. But will anyone trust him?

12/1/2014 update: Coltrane won’t sign, GTFF will strike, and “Trust has broken down”. 

Yeah, maybe your $300-an-hour zoning lawyer can tell you how that happened. Although I think it will be hard to top the explanation your $14,000 a year English composition instructors gave you, now in the Emerald, here.

From: President’s Office <pres@uoregon.edu>
Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 4:52 PM
Subject: Mediation concluded, strike expected

Dear colleagues and students,

It pains me to send this update about the negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. Mediation has failed and regrettably we are expecting the GTFF to strike beginning tomorrow.

I care deeply about each student and employee here. I have been hopeful every day that this could be avoided. Unfortunately, the bargaining teams met today and could not reach an agreement.

We have been negotiating for a year. The university has moved toward the union proposals at almost every negotiation and mediation. Most labor negotiations include give and take. Today’s offer included a hardship fund that would provide financial support for graduate students in need. Nevertheless the GTFF authorized a strike vote months ago in the spring, and have reiterated that position repeatedly. Trust has broken down and rebuilding that trust will be a priority when this is over.

Tomorrow will be a significant day on campus. It is dead week and academic life will go on even if many of our GTFs strike. We respect each person’s right to choose for him- or herself about whether to participate. It is one of the great things about our country. Please be respectful of one another.

For our students, we have a job to do and serving students is our focus. Final exams will be held and graded, and student grades will be entered. And we will all look forward toward winter term.

Sincerely,

Scott Coltrane
Interim President

11/29/2014 1:11 PM update: GTFF to Bronet: Put sick leave in the CBA, and it’s a deal

The GTFF’s response to the latest proposal from the administration is here. The only remaining sticking point? They want the details in the CBA. I’m no $300-an-hour zoning-easement lawyer, but in economics we teach that this is just the sort of thing that contracts like the CBA are for. Here’s hoping Provost Bronet gives Jeff Matthews appropriate instructions soon:

The GTFF’s executive council voted that they could be willing to accept the fund as an alternative to paid leave. However, to do so, critical language about the fund must be in our collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The GTFF proposed language to do so and was willing to discuss alterations that would work for the Administration. However, the Administration still refused to accept any CBA language to guarantee the rules of how the fund might operate.

Question: Why does it need to be in the CBA?

Creating a CBA is the reason we hold negotiations. It is an enforceable, legally binding agreement between employer (UO) and employees (GTFs). The language that is written into the CBA must be followed by both sides. If either side violates the CBA, formal procedures exist to correct that, including a third-party arbitrator to correct any violations. Working out a deal, without any guarantee of follow through, undermines the intent of the collective bargaining process. Writing new policy for graduate students does not guarantee the needs of its graduate employees are being addressed.

The Administration is unwilling to include any CBA language for the fund other than (1) it exists, (2) there is at least $150,000 in the fund, and (3) GTFs, because they are grad students, can access the fund. So, the only legally binding portion of the fund would be its existence, size, and the fact that GTFs can access it. The rules of the fund, all details about how the fund operates and how grad students can access the fund, are left up to the Administration. That is not good enough.

11/28/2014 1:40 update: Provost Bronet to faculty, students: Shelter in Place until Monday

Sounds like the administration is finally willing to “enshrine sick leave and parental leave in the CBA”, as Sharon Rudnick would put it. Although given the last bogus offer, and the administration’s history of uncivil and disrespectful discourse with the grad students, I’m guessing the GTFF will want to run this by legal before accepting it:

On Friday Nov 28, 2014, at 1:40 PM,
Provost Office <provost@uoregon.edu> wrote:

Colleagues and students,

This week, the university and the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation met for many hours in mediation and again attempted to find a solution to avert a strike. We are continuing our conversation, with mediation resuming on Monday at 8 a.m.

During bargaining, we heard from GTFs that they are concerned about GTFs who have medical emergencies or added expenses associated with the birth or adoption of a child that put undue financial pressure on them. The university’s proposal directly addresses the initial concerns voiced in negotiations. The university offered to establish a continuing $150,000/year financial hardship fund for all graduate students, members of the GTFF and non-GTFF graduate teaching fellows. The fund, which would be administered through the Graduate School, would permit graduate students to apply for grants of up to $1,000 for medical emergencies and $1,500 for needed financial support related to the birth or adoption of a child.

The university has proposed putting language directly into the collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing the existence and amount of the new fund, as well as ensuring GTFs access to the program using the same criteria that would apply to all graduate students. The university strongly believes that standard criteria for hardship funds, including a student’s overall financial circumstances such as a loss of income, should apply to all graduate students equally.

Establishment of a hardship fund is the latest addition to the university’s offer that also includes:
· A nine percent pay increase, over two years (Once fully implemented, salaries per hour would be $20.69 for level 1; $23.38 for level 2; and $24.69 for level 3 GTFs);
· Full tuition waivers;
· Significantly reduced fees (a GTF pays only $61 per term); and
· Full health, vision and dental coverage for all GTFs, their partners and children, with the university paying 95 percent of the premium.

The campus is prepared to meet the needs of our students if the GTTF goes on strike. The academic continuity plan provides faculty across campus with options on how to best administer finals and enter grades for students. Decisions regarding specific approaches will be determined by faculty in order to best meet the needs of their classes and students. For more information, visit http://provost.uoregon.edu/gtff-negotiation.

The university is hopeful that the GTFF will recognize the value of the complete package for our GTFs and their families so we can all avoid a strike. We look forward to continuing our negotiations at mediation on Monday, Dec. 1 at 8 a.m.

Sincerely,

Frances Bronet
Acting Senior Vice President and Provost

11/28/2014: Biology department issues last minute instructions for hiring scabs

This spring, when the PSU faculty threatened to strike, it quickly became clear that the university couldn’t even to pretend to be able to maintain academic standards. The faculty called their bluff, and the administration quickly settled. Oregonian reporter Betsy Hammond had the story:

Portland State University will be forced to cancel many classes should faculty members go on strike this month, dozens of department chairs and program directors say.

Calling administrators’ bluff that serious plans are being crafted to keep classes running in the event of a strike, the heads of every department in Portland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences issued a signed statement spelling out why that isn’t feasible.

Their bottom line: There is no way department heads can recruit enough qualified academics in the Portland area to take over the array of specialized classes taught by Portland State’s 820 full-time teaching faculty.

“We are all scratching our heads where we would find the personnel to be able to do so,” said Tom Potiowsky, chairman of the economics department.

Here at UO, with just a few days until the GTF strike, the administration is still trying to maintain the facade that classes will be taught and grades assigned. But the cracks are showing. The biology department business manager has given up on trying to find scabs for the GTF’s, and told the faculty to hire anyone they can find:

Subject: biofaculty: GTFF strike info: tracking hours worked and instructions for hiring addl help
Date: 2014-11-26 13:50
To: <biofaculty@lists.uoregon.edu>

All,

In the event of a GTFF strike, each instructor is responsible for coverage of their classes, labs, discussions, and grading. In Biology, individual course action plans have not been identified as this is the responsibility of each instructor for their class(es). However, the UO has identified general Academic Coping Strategies (see page 2 of the attached Academic Continuity Plan) that can help guide instructors as they determine the best option for their class(es).

If instructors determine additional help will be needed in their class(es), instructors should identify and select the individuals they would like to assist them with their class(es). Instructions for hiring new employees vs existing employees follows:

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HIRING AND PAYING NEW EMPLOYEES OR PAST EMPLOYEES WHO HAVE HAD MORE THAN A YEAR BREAK IN SERVICE

If the GTFF go on strike, individuals can be hired to take on work as laid out in the attached Compensation Summary. Please ask your new employee to come to the HR office in the Peace Health North building, 4th floor (677 East 12th Ave) on Tuesday, Dec 2nd or Wednesday, Dec 3rd between 7 am and 7pm to fill out their Hire/Payroll packet. HR will have HR representatives available to assist them. They will need to bring the following documentation to the HR Office:

a. Proof of work authorization and identification from the I-9 list. The most common are an unexpired passport OR an unexpired driver’s license AND a social security card.

b. A voided check, if they want their pay deposited automatically into their bank account.

To pay these employees, the instructor should provide the employee with the time reporting link (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bQQ2Ujqr9K4iQ3WsJfrb7iHP8SzSX11YtXzY5aprnk0/viewform?usp=send_form
[1]) to report their hours. The employee should provide the information requested at the link, following the guidelines in the attached compensation summary, on Friday, December 12th and/or the day after the last day of the strike. Each employee will need to submit a separate form for each type of activity. For example, if the employee grades exams and proctors an exam, this is two different types of compensable activities and would require two submissions of the form at the link. After the hours have been submitted, I will provide a summary of the hours per employee to the instructor for verification prior to processing the payroll.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAYING OVERLOAD TO CURRENT EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

If the GTFF go on strike, current exempt employees (those NOT eligible for overtime — generally faculty and OAs) are eligible for compensation when taking on work as laid out in the attached Compensation Summary. To pay these employees, the instructor should provide the employee with the time reporting link (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bQQ2Ujqr9K4iQ3WsJfrb7iHP8SzSX11YtXzY5aprnk0/viewform?usp=send_form
[1]) to report their hours. The employee should provide the information requested at the link, following the guidelines in the attached compensation summary, on Friday, December 12th and/or the day after the last day of the strike. Each employee will need to submit a separate form for each type of activity. For example, if the employee grades exams and proctors an exam, this is two different types of compensable
activities and would require two submissions of the form at the link. After the hours have been submitted, but prior to processing the payroll, I will provide a summary of the hours per employee to the instructor for verification, and for exempt OAs, confirmation the work listed is in addition to their regular workload during this period.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAYING OVERLOAD TO CURRENT NON-EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

Nonexempt employees are overtime-eligible employees. In Biology, only classified employees are overtime eligible. If the GTFF go on strike, nonexempt employees are eligible for compensation if they work additional hours beyond normal work hours on strike related or impacted duties. Any additional hours beyond normal work hours on strike related or impacted duties should be recorded on the employee’s timesheet and submitted to me on the regular monthly timesheet due date.

Please let me know if you have any questions, Thank you,

[Biology department business manager]

77 Klamath Hall | 1210 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1210

 

Source: http://uomatters.com/2014/12/biology-department-issues-last-minutes-instructions-for-hiring-scabs.html