After protracted and often contentious negotiations, the USF Board of Trustees (BOT) and the faculty union have reached a tentative agreement on the annual reopening of clauses in the contract governing faculty pay and benefits.
Ending 10 months of negotiations, the new agreement could be ratified by early May if ratified in separate votes by members of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and the BOT.
“I think the faculty will be happy,” said UFF chief negotiator Robert Welker.
As talks progressed, the major sticking point became compression inversion, a naturally occurring process in the business world whereby people who have been employed by an organization tend to earn less for their position than those who have been hired recently. This is the result of the tendency of companies to award competitive salaries and hiring bonuses to new hires while offering raises to existing employees at around the rate of inflation.
While both sides agreed on the amount of money allotted to correct compression inversion at USF, they could not reach an agreement on the means through which it would be awarded.
On Friday, however, the two sides agreed to a plan that awards all faculty members with more than 25 years of experience and six strong annual evaluations a raise to 80 percent of the national average for their position as established by an Oklahoma State University study, up to $10,000.
Though this leaves seven eligible faculty members lower than the 80 percent mark, no faculty member will be subject to further review processes before receiving the raise. UFF’s position throughout bargaining was that any review process above the standard annual evaluations would degrade the union’s ability to protect its members.
“Neither side got exactly what it wanted,” Welker said. “It is like a divorce case: if one side is overjoyed, there is a problem.”
The agreement, if ratified, will also allow for a 1.4 percent pool of faculty salaries, which will be distributed based on annual performance evaluations. These raises are to be awarded in addition to a 3 percent competitive pay increase mandated by the state for all faculty members.
Also included is a memorandum of understanding concerning course assignments for the family of faculty members and two studies evaluating partner benefits and parental leave.
The bargaining teams for both UFF and the BOT agreed to form a committee to evaluate the coverage options and funding sources for domestic partner health insurance. Laws exist in the state of Florida that don’t allow the use of state funds to pay for such benefits. The committee will include six members, half appointed by the BOT and the other half by UFF. The committee will then have four months to present its findings to the BOT as a recommendation.
Parental leave will be evaluated by a similar committee.
Both sides will be returning to the bargaining table soon, as the current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on July 1.
Representatives from each bargaining team expressed guarded optimism going immediately into another round of negotiations.