Money rules USF faculty negotiations

It’s all about the money.

The round of contract negotiations between USF’s faculty union and the University scheduled for Friday, that is.

The USF chapter of United Faculty of Florida’s (UFF) contract with the University expired in 2007, and as part of a series of bargaining sessions, both parties are planning to negotiate professors’ raises and summer pay.

UFF said the old contract — which let the Board of Trustees award raises to professors without union approval — expired June 30, 2007, but the BOT kept awarding raises, some of which topped $30,000.

This practice is called discretionary authority, and is used to give professors counter-offers if they’ve received offers of higher salaries elsewhere, or to award top-performing faculty.

A stipulation in the part of the contract granting discretionary authority is that UFF waves its right to negotiate these raises.

UFF-USF president Sherman Dorn said he doesn’t think the BOT should have given out about $700,000 in raises until USF and the union agreed to a new contract.

The discretionary funds are meant to be used in conjunction with across-the-board raises for all UFF faculty, Chief UFF Negotiator Bob Welker said, but last year the BOT didn’t give across-the-board raises.

The only raise was a state-level, across-the-board boost of $1,000 for all Florida employees, Welker said.

He said he thinks this adds to the case that the discretionary raises are not valid.

“They should have bargained it with us,” he said. “We had a right to bargain this, and they said, ‘No, you didn’t.'”

The University maintains that the raises are part of a legal practice that assumes the old terms of a contract are valid until a new agreement is signed.

Chief negotiator for USF and Associate Provost Kofi Glover said the raises are perfectly in line with this practice, called status quo.

“Either the whole contract is status quo, or the whole contract has expired,” he said. “Raises are not as arbitrary as they sound. They’re based on achievement.”

Glover said USF has proposed giving faculty a 2 percent raise in 2008 and 2009.

He said he hopes this push can help retain key professors who may be lured away by higher-paying private institutions or public universities in other states.

“In spite of the state economy, we want to make sure that we don’t lose faculty,” he said.

UFF-FSU has taken up this issue in court, and is appealing the Public Employees Relations Commission — a state-level office that handles labor disputes — decision allowing status quo for discretionary raises.

Summer blues
UFF also opposes a University-proposed limit on how much professors can earn teaching summer courses.

Welker said the proposed cap hurts professors who are about to retire, as their pension is determined by their last five years as USF employees. The lower the pay, he said, the lower the pension.

An e-mail from UFF’s bargaining team to union members said the cap will prompt summer classes to be “adjunctified (sic)”, creating financial incentives to use adjunct instructors rather than full-time faculty.

Glover countered that USF’s proposal — limiting professors’ pay to $10,000 per course — is a necessary move, freeing up money to offer more much-needed classes in the summer.

USF pays faculty 12.5 percent of their salary — typically paid out in 9-month contracts — per summer course, he said.

This means a professor making $120,000 per year would be paid $15,000 per summer course, whereas a professor earning $60,000 would get $7,500 for the same course, he said.

Opportunities to teach these classes, he said, are often based on seniority, meaning the highest-paid professors have a better crack at teaching them than lower-paid ones.

Given a fixed pool of money for summer classes, Glover said, USF’s setup could limit the number of courses taught.

The University is proposing that the per-class summer school pay be kept at 12.5 percent of professors’ salary — not exceeding $10,000 — so more classes can be taught.

“It’s not adjuncts — your education is not being compromised,” Glover said. “The priority should be classes that will allow students to progress to graduate.”

UFF remains unconvinced and plans on arguing against the plan at Friday’s meeting.

“They want to cut down on summer pay,” Welker said. “We’re not going to agree to a summer school cap.”