There is currently a lot of uncertainty in the University budget. Because of this uncertainty, the Universities have proposed and the Higher Ed bargaining team has agreed to a short-term extension of our contract through January 31, 2022. This would mean negotiations would begin in September instead of this Spring.
This offers the best opportunity to protect our healthcare and steps, while waiting to negotiate over cost of living increases until after the financial picture becomes more clear.
WHAT DOES DELAYING NEGOTIATIONS MEAN FOR ME?
We’ve faced a year like no other! The pandemic has affected all of us in ways we could not have imagined 12 months ago. As we put 2020 behind us we face more uncertainty but also hope. Uncertainty because of the budget issues each university is facing; hope for the new federal administration to take action in bringing this pandemic to manageable levels so we can return to normalcy.
Negotiations with the seven public universities happen every two years and impact more than 4,500 classified employees across Oregon. Many of us look forward to bargaining to protect our health insurance benefits, increase wages, and strengthen contract language. In our last contract negotiations, we came within 48 hours of striking and were able to win one of the strongest contracts in our history!
This time, the economic impact of the pandemic has created a very different reality: because of the financial impact COVID has had on campus our co-workers have been laid off and many of us have had our hours reduced. Recently the federal government has provided some relief to Universities but it is not enough to shore up the budgets over this biennium. The financial outlook at this time is uncertain.
Decision to Extend our Contract
Because of the uncertainty, the Universities have proposed and we have agreed to a short-term extension of our contract through January 31, 2022. This would mean negotiations would begin in September at which time we believe we will have more clarity about the financial outlook for the Universities. Our current contract would continue status-quo.
Our team has deliberated the pros and cons of agreeing to an extension and believe that this offers the best opportunity to protect our healthcare and steps while waiting to negotiate over cost of living increases until after the financial picture becomes more clear including fall enrollment numbers in 2021 and whether or not additional resources will be available through the federal or state government.
Below are some answer to frequently asked questions:
What will happen to my health insurance?
There would be no changes to our health insurance premium share and the $40 health insurance subsidy would continue for everyone who makes less than $3016 per month.
What about my steps?
Regular step increases would continue as usual.
Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA)
We would not see any cost of living increases during the extension but we would still bargain over COLAs later this year. The effective date for COLAs is something we need to negotiate over and we can bargain for a COLA that is effective earlier than February 1, 2022.
What happens to vacation, sick leave, personal business days?
There would be no change to these accrued leave and they would continue as normal.
Inclement Weather and Hazardous Conditions Leave
The 48 hours of paid leave expires on June 30, 2021. The Universities agreed to extend the current accrued 48 hours through January 31st of 2022. Meaning any hours you have left would be available to you should the University close due to inclement weather or hazardous conditions.
How about the rest of the contract?
All of the terms and conditions of the current contract would continue.
How did the bargaining team come to this decision?
We had several conversations with union leadership on each campus to inform our decision. The bargaining team met multiple times to discuss this possibility and came to the conclusion that an extension was in our best interest.
Statewide LOA on COVID/Telecommuting
This LOA would be extended through the Governor’s declaration of emergency.
Individual University LOAs on Alternatives to Layoff (Furlough, Work Share or Extended Benefits)
These individual LOAs will continue to be negotiated at individual campuses. Some campuses have already agreed to extend these LOAs while others have not.
Current Bargaining Activities:
We’ll continue to focus on building our locals by growing our CAT teams and inviting all members and non-members to join the bargaining campaign.
Federal Stimulus and State Budget
Universities will have some additional resources through the Federal Stimulus. Each University is in a different financial situation and for many these dollars won’t make up for the loss in revenue due to COVID. Our Union will be advocating for additional funding from the Federal and State governments in order to shore up the Universities’ budgets. We will have clarity about whether or not additional funding will be available later this summer.
What are the timelines for bargaining?
We would begin bargaining in September and our contract would expire on February 1. The earliest we’d be able to go on strike is sometime in late March or early April.
Is this an opportunity for us?
Yes, we will continue to build our campaign to win a fair contract and will have more time than normal to build our membership on campus to be strike ready.
What’s the university angle on this and why are they proposing it?
The Universities are even more unpopular with the legislature than they were last time we were in negotiations. Meaning the Universities are more vulnerable to public opinion than ever. They don’t want to get into a fight with us now during the COVID pandemic because of the possibility that negative information about how the Universities have handled the crisis would come to light.
Would members need to ratify the extension?
No, members do not need to ratify letters of agreement. We only vote to ratify a tentative agreement whenever a settlement is reached at the end of the regular negotiations.
Does longevity pay continue?
Yes, longevity pay would continue.
What about the extension of Layoff Rights?
We were able to extend the statewide Letter of Agreement that expands the amount of time you can be on the recall list to two years for anyone who is laid off since May 1, 2020 and through the length of the Governor’s declaration of emergency.