Chief Negotiators Blog # 25
After three informational meetings and the Annual Chapter meeting, I am returning to the Blog to update you on negotiations at the local level and at the SEBAC level.
At the local level, the Administration has been persistent about proposing changes to Article 13 “Members of the Unit Not in a Tenure Track”. Their persistence is evidenced by their refusal to negotiate over other Articles (24 covering Research Assistants/Associates; Article 26 covering temporary employees, including adjunct faculty, visiting faculty, research faculty, and others; and a new article on Coaches and Trainers in the Athletic Department) that were included in the package of proposals with Article 13. The Administration has also made statements of bringing Article 13 to binding arbitration before a neutral third party arbitrator. More on this arbitration process later in the Blog.
The language in question refers to the “just cause” standard for non-renewal of an Article 13 faculty member on a multi-year appointment. Currently, newly hired Article 13 faculty are offered annual appointments for up to six years. After that time, they shall be offered a multi-year appointment of between three and five years. In each of those years, both in the first six years and then after receiving a multi-year appointment, the Article 13 faculty member undergoes evaluations consistent with their department-approved criteria and procedures.
After achieving a multi-year appointment, subsequent appointments shall only be for three or more years unless the Administration expresses there is just cause to not renew their contract. (“Just cause” meaning that the Administration has fair, adequate, and reasonable cause to not renew the faculty member.) The Administration agreed to this language in 2012 based on a commitment to the Article 13 faculty member that their employment was crucial to the university.
After our union agreed to the 2011 SEBAC concession agreement, UConn-AAUP and the Administration agreed to renegotiate Article 13. This happened over an 8-month period, resulting in the currently modified Article 13 that is now in the contract. If the Administration now, in 2017, claims these negotiations “went too far” (Eagen, 2016) then they were either bad at negotiating or now want to take back something from in-residence faculty that came out of the 2011 SEBAC Concession agreement.
Although this just cause standard is a high bar for the Administration to not renew a contract, there have been a few cases where the administration felt it was necessary to proceed with terminating an Article 13 faculty member, and they succeeded. We have not been given any evidence that the administration is unable to manage the university with this current contract provision.
Nonetheless, we offered a counter proposal allowing for three years of unsatisfactory evaluations to remove an Article 13 faculty member from the multi-year appointment. Our rationale is that if a faculty member is not performing satisfactorily, then that faculty member should be removed from the multi-year appointment and placed on annual appointments. The Administration rejected that offer.
The Administration has refused to make modifications to their proposed language regarding just cause. Both the Administration’s proposal and our proposal can be found on our proposal page.
Should the Administration decide to take the language to “interest arbitration” (grievance arbitration is based on a dispute involving the interpretation or application of the collective agreement), besides drawing this process out for a month or two, the entire contract with the newly signed Temporary Agreements would go before an arbitrator for his decision. The arbitrator would rule on the entire agreement as one package. This scenario could result in, the members of the bargaining unit not getting to vote on the contract that has been in negotiations for the past two years. The arbitrated contract would then go to the State Legislature for approval. If it were to go alone, and not together with all of the other State Employee contracts, there is the risk it could be voted down within the current unpredictable legislature. We would like to avoid this process and settle the disagreement ourselves.
At the SEBAC level, representatives of the bargaining units have been meeting with members of the Governor’s staff in order to assist the Governor in passing a biennium budget. There are several advantages to state employees for making this gesture of assistance:
- As in the past 2011 SEBAC agreement, there will be a guarantee of no layoffs for state employees for some time period, yet to be determined;
- Collective bargaining agreements would be approved with wage increases;
- The SEBAC agreement will be extended beyond the existing expiration date in order to maintain health care and retirement security for current and future employees.
The extension of the SEBAC agreement beyond its current expiration date might be the most critical benefit. The fair expectations of retirees and current employees must be respected. Given the changing political climate in the state and across the country, the current benefit structure is not absolute and is subject to change.
For instance, over the next several years we may see the legislative support for collective bargaining completely change, or at worst become nonexistent. Given the unreliable tax system and continued political posture of ‘no new taxes’, there seem to be only two choices; cut public employee pay and benefits while eliminating collective bargaining or cut and eliminate critical public services. There were anti-labor bills submitted this year that actually received hearings before committees. It may not be long before some of that legislation actually becomes law. If the SEBAC agreement were extended for another five years, regardless of changes to Connecticut labor law, that agreement would be controlling until it expires. If the agreement is not extended and legislation is passed that removes the requirement to negotiate pension and health care at the state level, your benefits are likely to drastically change.
Over the next week or two, you may be asked to review a SEBAC agreement, a UConn-AAUP collective bargaining agreement, and then vote on both. There will be an informational meeting scheduled for you to ask questions on either agreement.
Please assist us by participating in reviewing and voting on this important employment decision.