As you may have seen, the UA bargaining team has made several proposals that have the intent of improving the working life of our faculty who primarily work on sponsored research. Over the last few years, many faculty have approached us with suggestions and requests for help in making it easier to conduct sponsored research at the UO. The bargaining team incorporated those diverse perspectives into proposals at the table. Of course, we also know that “sponsored research” is a very broad world at UO, and what might work in one area of campus might not be great for another area. Our goal was to make proposals that would benefit as many faculty working on sponsored research as possible, and as we negotiate with the administration, we’ll continue to need your feedback about what will help you most.
As we said in our first bargaining message, opening proposals are often used to initiate conversation about important topics that will need to be discussed over the course of the months of bargaining. Except on very minor issues, neither party expects that the other side will accept their proposals without several conversations. The goal of bargaining is to work out a deal that will work for both parties.
For instance, we proposed that 5% of all recovered F&A funds be returned to the PI for use in the lab. We proposed that the money come from the portion of F&A funding that is normally directed to the VPRI office. We think this has a number of advantages in terms of efficient investment in innovation. We told the administration at the bargaining table that our goal was to get more money in the hands of PIs to do what they know best, and we were proposing to take that money from central administration. We also told them, however, that we were very open to hearing problems that would be raised by this proposal. We anticipate that the administration team will have information for us on how taking funds from the VPRI office would impact the university. We hope that, should the administration team not believe that taking funds from VPRI is advisable, they will suggest where funds could come from, or an alternate way to get more money directed to sponsored research without additional burdens for faculty to access those funds.
We made it clear to the administration team that our proposals that touched on the sponsored research world were opening proposals designed to spark conversation about our goals and how to accomplish them.
Our proposal to raise the Research Assistant salary floor to $53,509 has caused some consternation. We’re very aware that this would be a high salary floor for all Research Assistants, yet it also points out how diverse the responsibilities and expertise of Research Assistants are. In conversations with administrators away from the table, we have talked about some of the difficulties raised by the size and scope of the Research Assistant category. In these discussions, we have suggested to the administration team that they suggest a way to divide this category so that we can look at the possibility of providing two separate salary floors. One of the ideas that has been suggested is that we create a category for entry-level positions of a short duration. Another is that research assistants with more specialized skill sets, or more management responsibility, have a separate category and title with a higher floor that represents their expertise. We anticipate that over the course of the next several months, we will have these conversations with the administration at the bargaining table. We also suspect that the administration is going to counter our salary floor proposal with something lower, and we will work out a deal over time.
As we were formulating our proposals, the bargaining team talked with many faculty members who do sponsored research – including PIs, RAs, and postdocs. As we have brought our proposals to the table and provided our membership with updates, we have received further feedback from faculty members across campus. As always, we welcome feedback, which is why we strive to be transparent as possible about what is happening in bargaining. Always feel free to respond to a bargaining update, contact me, contact the office, or reach out to the VP for Research NTTF Christina Karns.