UFF Remains Optimistic
Yesterday, USF System President Judy Genshaft sent an email to all "USF Faculty and Staff" stating that "it now looks as though we are moving to impasse proceedings." UFF was surprised and disappointed by this statement because the interests of the UFF USF employees and the university as a whole would best be served by the ratification of a new and equitable contract.
Here is the situation. The current contract, the 2010 - 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement, was supposed to be replaced by a successor contract by August of last year. Unfortunately, except for rapid agreement on a few isolated items, the USF Administration did not come to the table until last fall. Since then, both sides have exchanged proposals. These have included language on tenure and promotion to assignments to sabbaticals to layoffs to sick leave to summer school salaries to raises, and others. The contract governs the terms and conditions of employment, of which salaries are one part, and the union has an obligation to take all these contractual issues seriously. And UFF USF Chief Negotiator Robert Welker told the Oracle last week, "I remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached."
President Genshaft's use of the word "impasse" has legal significance. In bargaining a contract for an institution like USF, one side may send a Letter of Impasse to the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) requesting that a Special Master hear both sides and recommend a compromise. The two sides then settle on a Special Master, who hears both sides and proposes a compromise. If both sides agree to the compromise, that settles the matter. If not, the issue goes to the "legislative body" of the public agency in question, which then may impose a compromise, which then must be ratified by the UFF USF employees and by the USF Board of Trustees. Naturally, there are a lot of legal details, but President Genshaft is correct in asserting that all this would take time.
President Genshaft's letter focused on salaries, a subject very much on the minds of the UFF USF Bargaining Team, all of whom are UFF USF employees. As President Genshaft mentioned, the USF Administration's last proposal included a base salary raise consisting of a 2.0 % merit raise this year and a 1.5 % merit raise next year, together with up to 1.0 % each year in discretionary raises. Compounded, that's up to almost 5.58 % over two years. But as observed in the previous Biweekly, the median of overall raises tend to more closely track merit raises alone, so it may be more appropriate to look at the likely effect of the two merit raises, which would compound at 3.53 % over two years.
There were no merit raises last year, which means that the most substantial raise last year for many faculty was Governor Scott's $ 1,000+. Considering President Genshaft's concern about this long dry period with no contractual raises, we may suggest that she instruct the USF Administration to propose that raises bargained in the new contract be retroactive to August 2013.
The UFF USF Bargaining Team had been encouraged by President Genshaft's public commitment to make "... available $8 million for performance or merit-based increases to base salaries effective January 1st." With a $ 200 million payroll, that's a 4 % increase. Over one year. That was a positive note, and while it has been five months, we remain optimistic that that spirit will return.
At each UFF USF Chapter Meeting, our Chief Negotiator makes a report on bargaining. All UFF USF employees, UFF members and otherwise, are invited to attend. The next meeting is on Friday, April 4, at 12 noon. There will be soda pop, sandwiches, and chips.