PERC reviewing certification for unions

After months of waiting through governance changes, the faculty union may soon receive the one thing that has held it back from bargaining for a new contract.

Since the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the faculty union has been eager to begin negotiations for a new contract. However, that was not possible without certification from the Public Employee Relations Commission.

But the certification may come in three weeks, said Steve Meck, general counsel for PERC.

“I don’t think it’s going to be very long,” Meck said. “There are a number of cases involving boards of trustees and unions residing before the commission, decisions could come relatively quickly.”

When the collective bargaining agreement expired Jan. 7, Meck said PERC had to wait to certify all faculty unions in Florida until an employer was assigned. Meck said once the Board of Governors decided to pass on bargaining powers to university BOTs, the commission was able to start the certification process.

However, in awarding certification, Meck said the first thing that will have to be done is to identify either the BOG or the trustees as the public employer for each faculty union.

Now, Meck said, the cases for each university’s faculty union is being referred to hearing officers to collect facts and recommend orders before the commission. After that, Meck said if 30 percent of faculty members approve the faculty union as their representative, then the bargaining process can begin.

Faculty union president Roy Weatherford said he has received more than 60 percent of the cards filed from faculty members to allow the faculty union to represent them.

However, Weatherford said he isn’t sure how soon faculty will be able to begin bargaining for a new contract.

“So far, management has even refused to talk about negotiations,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford said negotiations could have started earlier in the year if the administration would have allowed the process to begin. However, the administration has said that before any meetings concerning a new contract could be held, the faculty union needed certification by PERC.

Either way, Weatherford said he feels the certification process could have moved faster.

“I think generally any human process could have moved faster,” Weatherford said. “But they have their rules and procedures.”

Meck said the commission has moved along with the governance changes in Florida, but had to wait to see what role the BOG would take.

“We knew they were going to take on a role since November, but we didn’t know what role they were going to take on,” Meck said. “I really think this is about as fast as it could have been done.”