Last Friday, the UA bargaining and UO administration teams returned to the virtual table. We received the administration’s first financial proposals, but unfortunately ran short on time so didn’t get through everything on the agenda.
Your UA team presented counterproposals on Articles 11 (Release Time), 12 (Facilities and Support), 15 (Academic Classification and Rank), 16 (Notices of Appointment), and 29 (Retirement Benefits). We also offered our initial proposal on Article 32 (Leaves).
The administration team presented counterproposals on Articles 17 (Assignment of Professional Responsibilities) and 19 (NTTF Review and Promotion). While we didn’t get the chance to discuss them at the table, the administration team also provided counterproposals on Articles 20 (Tenure Review and Promotion), 27 (Public Employee Benefits), 28 (Miscellaneous Benefits), 35 (Professional Development), and a new proposal on Article 30 (Benefits for Eligible Retired Bargaining Unit Faculty). They also foreshadowed their thinking on the salary floor section of Article 26 (Salary).
As part of our Article 32 (Leaves) proposal, we crafted a Donated Sick Leave Pool modeled after the system in place at Portland State University since 2017. This pool would allow bargaining unit faculty members to use their surplus sick time to support colleagues who are navigating their own or a family member’s illness, and it could prevent many faculty from being forced to borrow against future sick time or consider taking unpaid leave. It would also bolster our current parental leave system, which we proposed be expanded to include Postdoctoral Scholars.
In Article 16 (Notices of Appointment), we continue to work to create stability for Career faculty and clarity around their appointments. We again proposed language to ensure that academic decisions about programs and pedagogy that could lead to faculty layoffs are being made by the faculty within a unit or the Senate. We reasserted recall rights for laid-off faculty, which would be of value to both the faculty in question and to units experiencing fluctuations in enrollment. We offered a compromise in reducing the recall window from three years to two and by removing performance from the list of reasons for layoff that would result in recall rights. We similarly offered compromises in our notification windows for layoff (from 730 to 550 days for Careers in their highest rank and from 30 to 14 days for pre-promotion funding-contingent Careers), but maintain that the institution should be willing to make at least this level of commitment to these important faculty members.
Our other proposals attempted to fine-tune remaining issues including how the administration responds to problematic classrooms and other workspaces; configuration of release time for union officers; defining what it means to be funding-contingent faculty; ensuring that industry experience is recognized when faculty are being hired into the new, tiered research assistant category; and clarifying UO’s contributions toward retirement benefits.
The administration’s proposal on Article 17 (Assignment of Professional Responsibilities) surprised us by proposing the elimination of the ability to bank course releases. We see this as simply unworkable for a number of reasons. The policy would impact small departments where banked course releases provide a means to support increased administrative duties while still offering necessary courses and preserving opportunities for faculty research. Eliminating banked courses would prevent departments from making last minute adjustments to cover necessary administrative service and, as written, would eliminate course releases earned and banked as part of current unit policies that award course releases for research or teaching large classes. We pointed out that a course release is not time off in a future term, but an adjustment of work that reflects shifts in current and future duties to account for additional work. The administration also not only rejected our proposal of a maximum course load of 8 for Career instructional faculty, they rejected the idea that the contract should include any maximum course load.
In Article 19, the administration proposed significant reorganization and some potential changes to reviews for Career and Limited Duration faculty. Importantly, they agreed to removing the “up or out” provision of promotion reviews for Librarians. The administration team expressed many of their proposed changes as an effort to streamline review processes – and while we are in favor of this in principle, we believe it is important to maintain clear and consistent parameters at the level of the CBA. They also agreed (with changes) to our proposal for six year reviews for Career faculty in their highest rank associated with a raise parallel to the sixth year post-tenure review for full professors. And, while they agreed to add a new category and rank - Teaching Professor - for outstanding Career instructional faculty, they rejected the proposed review process that would award the rank through a faculty review committee, reserving the selection process for the provost alone.
Progress to Date
We are glad to have Tentative Agreements on six Articles (including our proposed Article 29) and to be moving at a steadier pace than past rounds of bargaining, but there are some areas of concern in what we’re seeing in the administration’s proposals.
First, we find ourselves fundamentally disagreeing at the table in a number of areas where we thought we had reached agreement in principle during last Fall’s bargaining workgroups. These include establishing professional development support for Career instructors, setting a maximum course load for instructional faculty, and committing to the idea that peer review is important to tenure and promotion reviews. It does not feel like the work the parties did in those groups is translating to a significantly smoother experience at the table, which is disappointing.
Further, we are hearing a great deal of rhetoric about the administration’s commitment to Career faculty. We are not, however, seeing this commitment materialize in their proposals. In many instances, our team has offered solutions to problems that the administration acknowledges, only to have these solutions rejected without alternatives being proposed. This is disheartening, and does not give the impression that the administration is truly invested in Career faculty, who are so essential to the teaching and research mission of our institution.
Please tune in for our next bargaining session on Friday, May 6, from 9am to noon, when we will resume discussion of the administration’s financial proposals – including a response to our childcare proposal and what appears to be a decrease in salary floors in some instances.