After more than a year of heated bargaining sessions, the pressure to reach an agreement on the 2013-16 collective bargaining agreement has intensified as university administrators and United Faculty of Florida (UFF) representatives emailed faculty with pitches for their cases before the summer semester begins.
The 2010-13 collective bargaining agreement – the agreement that outlines faculty rights, including teaching load, sick leave, raises and bonuses – expired at the start of the 2013-14 fiscal year. But as the year comes to an end without an agreement, talks of moving toward an impasse, or an agreement that would be arbitrated by a third party but ultimately settled by the university’s Board of Trustees, have escalated.
Members of the bargaining team for the university and UFF met late last month, pitching a proposal to negotiate a contract that would only extend to cover the remaining three months of the fiscal year, but even that was not agreed upon.
But in an email sent to the USF community March 26, Genshaft wrote, “regrettably, these negotiations have failed to reach an agreement” and “it now looks as though we are moving to impasse proceedings.”
While UFF Chief Negotiator Bob Welker said he remained optimistic UFF and the university could reach an agreement without moving to impasse, a UFF newsletter to faculty stated “the UFF is well positioned to meet that challenge and will have some of the best labor lawyers in the State of Florida in our corner.”
In her email to faculty, Genshaft addressed some of the sticking points in the contract that UFF representatives said they will not accept if they “continue the practice of marginalizing the salaries and benefits of its already underpaid and underappreciated employees.”
Genshaft wrote that USF has offered to provide a 2.5 percent merit increase to be made available to faculty upon adoption of the agreement and the university would have up to 1 percent of base bargaining unit to award in additional bonuses for special achievements and market adjustments.
But UFF representatives wrote that some of the university’s proposals were “poison pills.” At the bargaining session, university representatives said they could not agree to pay retroactive bonuses. They also said, because no agreement has been reached, this has saved the university $2.5 million.
Additionally, UFF representatives asked if the 1 percent could be distributed evenly among faculty to help offset the 3 percent salary reduction all faculty faced when the state required all employees to pay into their pension funds. The discretionary bonuses, they said, are only helpful to a few and called it a “pie in the sky.”
“Approximately 80 percent of the employees received nothing from said distribution,” the email from UFF to faculty said. “To make believe that even a majority of the employees are under serious consideration for these dollars does not match reality.”
Additionally, the union stated that because there were no merit based raises last year, they would like to “suggest (Genshaft) instruct the USF Administration to propose that raises bargained in the new contract be retroactive to August 2013.”
Until a new contract is agreed upon, the terms and conditions of the previous contract will continue.