USF, staff union move forward with contract negotiations

After nearly seven months of negotiations over contract agreements between USF administrators and staff, a’recommendation is finally under review.

But there are still hurdles – including one that could delay an agreement even longer: cash incentives for job performance.

University officials and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have 20 days to review the recommendations submitted Friday by a special magistrate and make a decision to either accept or reject it.

The AFSCME – a union that represents USF’s staff – including some of the lowest paid among’full-time employees, declared an impasse in July 2009 when it couldn’t reach new’contract agreements with the University.

AFSCME argues that the University’s policy for’providing one-time bonuses based on performance’ratings isn’t being fairly’evaluated.

‘I think for the average staff person, the wage is definitely an important thing being negotiated in the contract … we are disturbed about the distribution system of pay for performance,’ said Bill McClelland, president of USF’s chapter of AFSCME.

McClelland said the staff is concerned about two things: the ineffectiveness of the’performance system to distribute money and the amount of money being offered by USF.

The estimated total cost of the University’s proposal is $1,239,535, according to the recommendation. The union’s estimated proposal costs are $3,195,115. There are’1,633 staff members who fall under the proposal.

There are three performance ratings a staff member can receive: ‘exemplary,’ ‘commendable’ and ‘satisfactory.’ Under the policy, employees with an ‘exemplary’ rating receive a one-time bonus of $1,000, $750 for ‘commendable’ and $500 for ‘satisfactory,’ according to the’recommendation.

‘There’s a difference in’contribution,’ said Sandy Lovins, associate vice president for Human Resources, ‘and we feel that difference should be publicly recognized and that is typical in a pay for’performance system.’

Lovins said supervisors are responsible for evaluating staff members.

If an employee lacked a rating on his or her file, because he or she hasn’t been in a position long enough, a default ‘satisfactory’rating is given. According to the’recommendation, only about 1 percent of the staff, or 21 members, are without a’rating right now.

‘(The system) has been in place for, I couldn’t tell you how many years. I want to say forever,’ Lovins said.

But the AFSCME’conducted a study comparing the ratings’administrators received to staff in Physical Plant and Parking and Transportation Services and found ‘quite a bit of differences,’ McClelland said.

‘Seventy-nine percent of administrators got the highest ratings – which would mean they got the most money,’ he said.

And only 12 percent of the remaining staff members received as high of a rating,’according to the recommendation. No custodial worker,’groundskeeper, cashier, mail clerk or maintenance and repair workers received ‘exemplary,’ but one out of 22 bus drivers received’that mark.

‘This indicates to me that the evaluation process is maybe not evaluating performance but maybe evaluating the stature of the position,’ McClelland said.

Less than 1 percent of USF employees received below ‘satisfactory’ in the last year. Instead, more employees received ‘exemplary’ than any other level, followed by ‘commendable’ and ‘satisfactory.’

AFSCME wants bonuses to be based on employees’ salary level rather than ratings.

For example, an employee whose salary is $45,000 or less should receive a $2,000 bonus. An employee whose salary is more than $45,000 should receive a $1,000 bonus.

This is the first time AFSCME has had a contract reviewed by a special magistrate,’McClelland said.

Other things still under negotiation are contract language modifications regarding overtime, leaves of absences, workers’ compensation coverage and changes to the State University System employment rules now called USF Regulations.

The magistrate made five recommendations, with four going in favor of AFSCME.

If the University or AFSCME rejects any proposal within
the recommendation, a’sub-committee of the USF Board of Trustees (BOT) will hold a hearing and make a decision on any unresolved proposals.

However, the BOT may only impose an agreement that lasts for the remainder of the fiscal year, Lovins said. After that, negotiations between the’parties would continue.

This is the third impasse at USF, said Sherman Dorn, president of USF’s chapter of the statewide United Faculty of Florida (UFF). The UFF had its own in summer’2007, and the USF Police union had one in fall 2008.

‘As a faculty member, I see the work that the staff in my department and’throughout the University do,’ Dorn said. ‘I wish the University would have offered long before this current crisis to put in’university money into’staff-base raises.’