Members to discuss merit pay in 2009-10

One issue coming directly from a recent membership study commissioned by the UFF-USF Chapter is the set of concerns from participants about the structure of formulaic merit pay and administrative salary discretion. This time of economic hardship is probably the best year in which to talk about long-term structures in the contract, as there will probably not be a huge amount of money in play. During the fall, I will be setting up meetings on every campus and in multiple places on the Tampa campus to talk just about merit pay and other salary issues.

This will be a member-driven process: colleagues who are not dues-paying UFF members can vote on contract ratification, but the members set chapter policy. I want to be clear about my personal interests and intended role, before the discussions focused on merit pay begin: like my colleagues, I have my own opinions and ideas about merit pay, but the collective interests of the chapter membership will determine what the chapter’s approach on merit pay will be over the next few years. In 2007 I campaigned on the pledge to follow the faculty and professional employees of USF as we changed, and from a few places (not just the membership study), I am getting the message that merit pay and discretionary pay has to change. To be consistent with what I promised, my job is to start and protect a conversation about merit pay.

From what I know already, the issues involved in merit pay are a classic wicked problem, or a complex issue that isn’t going to be amenable to a direct “here’s the cause, and here’s the solution” process. I’ve had a number of conversations about merit pay over the years with both administrators and faculty, and the tendency of many comments is to fall into a pattern: “Here’s the problem with merit pay at USF, and instead of doing it this way we should do it just like it was done at my last institution.” The reference to “my last institution” is a heuristic short-cut: well-intended but an elision nonetheless, and I will view one of my jobs in these conversations to get behind such short-cuts.

As I wrote above, I have some preconceptions about the issues and potential solutions, but I know that they are preconceptions, and it is more important that the membership determine policy than that I agree with that policy. To guarantee that the decision is membership-driven, I will argue against any unilateral setting of long-term merit-pay bargaining guidance without a membership vote.


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