Expectation of Continued Employment

***Note – Throughout the message below, we refer to Career faculty as either “instructional Career faculty” or “funding-contingent Career faculty.” We recognize that these terms do not precisely describe all of the Career faculty at UO. We have chosen to refer to faculty this way in the interest of trying to make a complicated subject a little clearer. “Instructional Career faculty” includes Librarians and all Career faculty who are not on funding-contingent contracts. 

After months of negotiations, the University and United Academics have reached an agreement on the new system for employing Career faculty at the University of Oregon. Although these negotiations were for the purpose of implementing our agreement from the summer, they took some time as we sought to find the right way to modify the CBA to enact our shared vision. 

You can read the proposed revisions to the CBA articles and our draft Memorandum of Understanding here. You can also read the companion article-by-article guide to the changes.

The new system will go into effect on June 16, 2021, for 9-month Career faculty, and on July 1, 2021, for 12-month Career faculty. It will eliminate the contract system for Career faculty employment. Instead of being issued contracts that guarantee employment and FTE for one, two, or three years, all Career faculty will have an “expectation of continued employment” at their current FTE, with a layoff notice period before their job is terminated. 

The current contract system, while an improvement over the system in place before the first CBA, had a few flaws, two of which became very apparent this spring. 

One, when the university experienced a budget deficit or program reduction, only the faculty who were up for renewal faced the loss of their jobs. The renewal system introduced an element of randomness to job loss that was neither fair nor the intention of the parties. We saw that this spring when the faculty who happened to be up for renewal when the pandemic hit faced the loss of their jobs, regardless of their experience or their skill. 

Two, when contracts were renewed, they did not have to be renewed at the same FTE in all of the years of the contract, nor did they have to be renewed at the same FTE level as the preceding years. Some pockets of campus had chosen to deal with future “uncertainty” by giving their promoted Career instructional faculty contracts that only guaranteed 0.1 FTE in all three years of the contract, reserving the right to raise the FTE only if the unit chose to. When COVID hit, our Provost’s Office chose to deal with campus-wide uncertainty in the same manner by announcing that all Career faculty up for renewal would be given contracts at 0.1 FTE. As we learned, they saw the Career contract system as their “flexibility” in times of crisis. 

The faculty who participated in our town halls, observed bargaining, and wrote in to us all seemed to understand that there was nothing stopping the administration from continuing to issue contracts with only 0.1 FTE in each year, raising FTE only on a yearly basis after enrollments and budgets were finalized. 

The events of this spring convinced us that the system had to change. We bargained a one-year extension of Career contracts in exchange for a 0% wage increase this year, and we agreed to the principles of the “expectation” system when we bargained over the Progressive Pay Reduction plan this summer. 

While the new system does decrease job stability in some ways, it eliminates the flaws described above. 

In order to make up for the decrease in job stability that was provided by a contract, we sought to enhance job security in four ways. 

One, we agreed to limit the reasons the university could lay off faculty members by extending the protections previously enjoyed by only instructional Career faculty who had achieved promotion. Where previously instructional Career faculty who had not achieved promotion could be non-renewed for any reason, now all instructional Career faculty in their second and subsequent years can only be laid off for the four reasons below. 

The four rationale for layoff are:

  • Failure to meet the standards of excellence at a major research university, as determined through the procedures developed in accordance with Article 19; or
  • Inadequate resources within the unit or department to continue funding the bargaining unit faculty member’s position; or
  • Pedagogical or programmatic reasons, including but not limited to departmental adjustments necessary to accommodate graduate students; or 
  • Replacement of the laid off position(s) with a Tenure-related position.

Two, we also expanded the notice period for the loss of job for all instructional Career faculty in their second and subsequent years. Where under the contract system, instructional Career faculty received 45 days’ notice from the time of non-renewal to the end of employment, they will now have the following notification periods:

  • Career faculty members who are in their first year of employment will have a notice period of at least 30 days before being laid off.
  • Career faculty members who are in their second and subsequent years of employment, but have not achieved promotion, will have a notice period of at least 90 days before being laid off.
  • Career faculty members who have achieved promotion will have a notice period of at least 365 days before being laid off. 

Funding-contingent Career faculty members who have achieved promotion shall receive at least 30 days’ notice before being laid off. Funding-contingent Career faculty members who have not achieved promotion are not subject to notice before being laid off.

Three, we increased job security by agreeing that we would implement an “earned seniority” system for determining who is laid off. If one or more faculty members have the same skills to perform necessary work, layoffs will follow what we are calling earned seniority–Career faculty who have not been promoted would be laid off before Senior I faculty and they would be laid off before then Senior II faculty. 

Finally, we have eliminated the administration’s ability to unilaterally change the FTE of an instructional Career faculty member. Changes to FTE during employment with the university can only be made by mutual agreement. The FTE a faculty member has this year, which is based on the FTE they worked last year, will be their FTE going forward. A small number of faculty may have agreements to temporarily raise their FTE this year only; this FTE will not carry forward to next year.

Additionally, we have agreed to an expedited arbitration process to hear claims that proposed layoffs are not in compliance with the CBA. This is not an improvement related to job security, but it will greatly enhance the ability to address disputed layoffs quickly and provide the faculty member with knowledge regarding their future career. 

Unfortunately, many of the above changes do not apply to funding-contingent Career faculty. Despite our efforts, the administration is not willing to change the current system for employing funding-contingent Career faculty. Their employment was always contingent on the availability of funding and good performance, and notice of job termination was always shorter. We tried to raise funding-contingent employment up to the standards used for instructional Career faculty, but the administration would not agree at this time. We plan to raise these issues again when we bargain. If you would like to help us formulate a fair system for funding-contingent faculty, please contact VP Christina Karns to join our Research Team, a new group who will advise the Bargaining Team. 

We do not believe this agreement will be a panacea or eliminate the loss of Career jobs. We anticipate that there will be layoffs in spring and in the COVID-affected years to come. We also cannot guarantee that some crafty administrator will not find a way to bend the precise language in the CBA in ways we never intended it to, despite our bargaining team(s) doing their best to close as many loopholes as they could.

The Memorandum of Understanding and the attached collective bargaining articles will not go into effect until there is a ratification vote by the membership. Because of the late date this agreement was reached, we do not believe that a quick ratification vote is appropriate at this time. We want to ensure that all union members have a chance to read the agreements, discuss them with their colleagues, and have their questions answered before they vote. We will hold a ratification vote in Week 2 of Winter term and aim to have a Town Hall in the first week to address any questions or issues. 

The Executive Council endorses a “Yes” vote on this agreement. We believe the agreement corrects the flaws in the contract system, while still providing job security for Career faculty. Whereas the contract system as we know it relied on the good will of the administration to work, the proposed agreement is stronger in its protections for faculty. The agreement also greatly reduces administrative discretion about who is terminated from employment at the university, the reasons faculty can be terminated, and what FTE faculty are offered on a yearly basis. 

More information about the Town Hall and the ratification vote will come shortly. If you have questions for the Town Hall or would like to have answered via email, please respond to this email.