Notes contributed by OT-AAUP bargaining team member Dr. David Johnston, Natural Sciences, with minor edits by Communications Committee Member Dr. Ben Bunting, Humanities and Social Sciences
On Tuesday, July 28, the OT-AAUP and Oregon Tech negotiating teams met for their third bargaining session of the Summer. Terri Torres, Professor of Mathematics, joined the OT-AAUP negotiating team as a new member. The OT-AAUP team presented a counter proposal on Fringe Benefits, and two new proposals on Appeals and Shared Governance. The Oregon Tech team presented counter proposals on Program Elimination/Retrenchment and Professional Development, and re-presented their proposals on Term of Agreement and Negotiation of Successor Agreement.
The Oregon Tech team began by presenting their counter proposal on Program Elimination/Retrenchment. The Oregon Tech team explained that their proposal was designed to give maximum flexibility and discretion to Oregon Tech and its President regarding matters of program reduction and declarations of financial exigency. They stressed that it was the intention of the proposal to allow Oregon Tech to take whatever measures are necessary to address changing needs as quickly as possible, and, in the case of financial exigency, to return to the University to profitability as quickly as possible. Although not included in their proposal, the Administration Team indicated that they might be open to including a recall provision for Faculty members who were retrenched, as long as it did not restrict the University’s options. The Association Bargaining Team was very dismayed by this proposal. In particular, the Association pointed out that the Administration’s entire proposal seemed to be dismissive of Oregon Tech Faculty’s dedication to the institution; and, that the Association was concerned with the broad discretionary powers given to the President and lack of involvement with Faculty Senate or OT-AAUP in deciding these crucial matters. In response, the Oregon Tech team stated that nothing in their proposal precluded Oregon Tech from including Faculty Senate in Program Reduction/Retrenchment discussions, but that it was at the discretion of the Administration.
The Administration team then presented their counter proposal on Professional Development. Rather than agreeing to provide every faculty member with a certain amount, the Administration’s proposal stated that funds would be distributed as the University’s budget allows and would be disbursed according to policies to be developed by each College. Additionally, their proposal stated that the funds would be awarded competitively, but did not clarify what that meant. When the Association expressed concerns that this Proposal might result in an inequitable distribution of funds, the Administration stated that there would be language in the yet to be developed policies that would prioritize folks, but did not guarantee that everyone would have access to professional development funds. The Administration team did state that they may be open to language similar to what appears in Oregon State’s CBA, which says that the policies will be developed in consultation with faculty and that no faculty member would be denied access to funds arbitrarily. Lastly, when the Association team expressed disappointment in the apparent direction the Administration was taking, the Administration responded that they are trying to look after the interests of the University and that there may be some room for negotiation.
Term of Agreement and Negotiation of Successor Agreement
Finally, the Administration team presented their counter proposals on Term of Agreement and Negotiation of Successor Agreement. The Oregon Tech team explained that, based on the assumption that initial negotiations, including ratification, could extend into early 2021, they were proposing a 4 year Term of Agreement to extend to June 30, 2025. The Administration team explained that they felt a longer Term of Agreement would allow Oregon Tech to better plan financially and provide more stability for the University. As for the Negotiation of Successor Agreement, the Oregon Tech team proposed that the parties would give notice of which parts of the CBA they would like to open for negotiation during the period of September 15 – October 15, 2024, and that negotiations would start in the Fall of 2024 and finish by June 30, 2025, with any lingering issues resolved by the beginning of the Fall 2025 term. The Association team stated that they would discuss these proposals in caucus.
After caucus, the OT-AAUP team first presented their counter proposal on Fringe Benefits. The Oregon Tech team first asked if the Association had done a cost analysis on the proposed 50% reduction in parking fees for faculty. The Association responded that they were unable to perform such an analysis since the Association did not know how many bargaining unit members purchased parking permits last year. The Oregon Tech team further suggested that any loss in revenue due to a decrease in parking fees could result in an inability to properly maintain parking lots. The Administration team asked for clarification about what fee the Association was asking that faculty pay for use of the Gym facilities. The Association team stated that they wanted to keep the status-quo and pay the same rate faculty currently pay, which is the same as the rate students pay. In response to OT-AAUP’s proposal that faculty members be allowed to have two family members participate in the Tuition Staff Fee program, the Administration’s team asked if the Association had any data on interest in this among the faculty, or if they knew how many faculty currently took advantage of this program. The Association responded that they did not, but argued that it seemed to be in Oregon Tech’s interest to encourage more people to attend the University. Following this, there was a protracted discussion around the proposal to compensate bargaining unit members for going through a visa or visa renewal process, in accordance with appropriate laws. The Association explained that it was their intention to make sure that Oregon Tech followed the law for all bargaining unit members, as there were cases where this, allegedly, did not happen. The Administration stated that of course they would follow the law, and requested that anyone who felt they were not being treated equitably or being assisted within the limits of the law to bring up the matter with HR.
OT-AAUP then presented their proposal on Shared Governance. It was the Administration Team’s view that this was not a mandatory subject, and that it would be problematic to include an article that dealt with an organization outside of OT-AAUP, in the CBA. The Association attempted to clarify that it was not it’s intent to define any roles of Faculty Senate or any other body outside the purview of OT-AAUP, but that the Association merely wanted to clarify to its members what were the responsibilities of the Faculty Senate and OT-AAUP under this new CBA, and to emphasize that Oregon Tech was committed to shared governance. The Oregon Tech team again expressed their concern over having a proposal of this nature in the CBA, and said they would discuss it further in caucus.
Lastly, the Association presented their proposal on Appeals. The Association team explained that the intention of this Proposal was not to override an Academic Judgement, but to provide a venue for bargaining unit members to appeal a decision on the grounds that errors or omissions may have been made in the review of the faculty member’s portfolio. The Administration Team stated that as long as the Association Team understood that this article was permissive, they would discuss it further in caucus.