Bargaining message to unit

The UFF-USF Bargaining Team sent the following to the bargaining unit as USF on Wednesday, September 10:

A message from the UFF-USF Bargaining Team

Last Thursday, the Trustees’ bargaining team made what appeared to us from the remarks of the Trustees’ representatives as its best salary offer. Since we represent you at the bargaining table, we think you should know about this offer.

We are negotiating a three year contract on your behalf, from 2007 through 2010. For over 18 months now, we have worked to get the best collective bargaining agreement possible for in-unit employees—teaching faculty and professional employees alike. A few sessions ago, after more than a year of silence, the Trustees’ representatives put their salary proposal on the table. At first, the Trustees’ offer was depressing, a bonus—not a pay increase—of $1,500 per year or less. That was completely unacceptable to us. They have changed the salary proposals over the past few sessions, following more generous offers at other universities. We don’t normally talk about specific proposals in public, but given what the Trustees’ representatives told us at the bargaining table—This is our salary offer… You call us, we won’t call you—here it is:

2007-2008 – no base salary increase; just the one-time bonus given to
us by the Florida legislature (not by the Trustees)
2008-2009 – a 2% base salary increase
2009-2010 – another 2% base salary increase

This proposal is lower than what Florida State University’s Trustees have agreed to with the faculty at FSU, and the proposal of the USF Trustees doesn’t cover inflation. But more disturbing than that part of the salary proposal is something else: the Trustees put on the table a provision that would erase pay increases—and in some cases would reduce annual pay—for hundreds of teaching faculty. They proposed to cap the pay that faculty could earn for teaching a course in summer school. We know that dozens of teaching faculty already had their summer teaching opportunities cut this past summer, a reduction in take-home pay that swamps the 2% raise offered by the Trustees. A cap on summer pay would compound that effect.

We know what happens at other universities with either caps on summer teaching pay or flat rates: they remain fixed over years, sometimes decades. The Trustees’ proposal would start by capping the summer pay of several hundred faculty. But like the alternative minimum tax, a stationary cap captures more and more faculty until eventually all can be forced to take adjunct rates for teaching summer courses. And until then, the Trustees and their management will push department chairs to hire adjuncts instead of faculty to teach summer courses. Chairs and deans have already heard from upper-level management that there will be no summer school. If you’re of a paranoid bent, you might almost believe that such statements are designed to intimidate the bargaining team into accepting a summer salary cap. We do know one thing: The threat of summer teaching’s being “adjunctified” and summer salary caps go together.

This pattern looks good if the purpose of a university is to have an “operating profit”—something trumpeted on page 16 of the Annual Financial Performance Report given the Trustees on August 21. But the adjunctification of summer classes is awful if you care about quality teaching and quality programs. Everyone who has taught a full course in six or ten weeks knows the effort involved in reorganizing material to fit into a shorter period of time, especially since summer terms do not have a finals week. To believe that this should be done on the cheap is not a sign of high aspirations for USF.

The Trustees’ representatives presented their position as one of financial need: the Trustees don’t have the money to run summer programs by properly paying full-time faculty to teach, they said. At the end of 2006-07, the Trustees had more than $240 million in unrestricted assets that they could use for any legal purpose, and we suspect they have millions more today. Between July 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, the Trustees and their representatives gave discretionary raises totaling more than $700,000 to a small number of faculty. The process they used for giving this out without bargaining first with UFF is currently the focus of a legal dispute, an issue that we’re not going to describe in detail. We are not contesting the claim that the Trustees would surely make, that the individuals receiving money deserved it; so do hundreds of faculty who received no raise at all in the past year. The point here is that in a time of alleged financial distress, the Trustees found the money. Of those raises, 28 were $10,000 or more. The top five raises given out by the Trustees or their representatives, without bargaining the raises with UFF, were $33,064, $21,935, $20,190, $20,000, and $19,902. They also gave out almost $250,000 in one-time payments, including two one-time payments of more than $30,000 each.

This is not the behavior of a Board of Trustees that is unable to afford summer classes. This is the behavior of a Board of Trustees that has set priorities in a way that undercuts summer teaching. Yes, the legislature is screwing up the state’s budget. We all know that. But that is no reason to add self-inflicted wounds to what the legislature is doing to the universities. The Trustees have the resources to keep the summer program running for the next two years without a salary cap and without an adjunctified summer. They just don’t want to: “operating profit” is the phrase that jumped out at us from the August financial report. It’s not what belongs as the core value of a university.

The summer salary cap proposed by the Trustees right now would affect a few hundred faculty. But though that is a minority of the UFF-USF bargaining unit, there are several reasons why this alarms us, especially when presented in the way that it was at the table. First, there is already the slide towards the adjunctification of summer classes that we saw in the summer 2008 schedule. Second, we think that the cap proposed this year would only go down, never up. Third, the principle we have followed for five years of local bargaining at USF is that our fates hang together: No one sits at the back of the bus where the United Faculty of Florida is concerned. If you would not be affected by this particular proposal, you can be confident that we’ll defend YOUR interests and values just as firmly when they are threatened.

We have prepared a revised salary proposal and requested a collective bargaining session with the Trustees’ team to present and discuss it.

We bargain fairly with the Trustees and their representatives; we have come to multiple agreements with the Trustees in the past few years, and the Trustees know that we can make a deal that is in the interests of everyone. We’re also hard bargainers. That’s our job. When we see a proposal that is not workable, we have to reject it. We are both fair and hard, and we will never apologize for driving a hard bargain. We are there working for you.

UFF-USF Bargaining Team


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