Though no resolution was ultimately reached, after the 14th bargaining session since September 2012, the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) faculty union and university administration collective bargaining teams appeared to come closer to reaching an agreement last week after both sides made concessions.
After agreeing to reduce the term of the new contract from three years to one year – meaning the agreement would essentially only apply for the next three months, before a new contract would need to be negotiated and come into effect – both sides held firm on their stances on providing salary increases to faculty.
The union initially opposed the university’s desire to retain 1 percent of the total salary base for administrative discretionary increases (ADI), or ADI, saying the 1 percent – or about $1.35 million – was distributed unevenly, only benefiting 20 percent of faculty members and should be evenly distributed among all faculty members.
But on Friday, union members said they would agree to the 1 percent ADI if the right to distribute the funds expired by May 2015 and the administrative team would agree to provide a 2.5 percent salary increase for the remainder of the contract and a one-time 2.5 percent lump sum bonus in lieu of a retroactive contract that would provide faculty with compensation for the rest of the year.
The administrative team said the terms weren’t fair.
“You’re basically coming up with a way to implement retroactivity,” administrative chief negotiator John Dickinson said.
Faculty chief negotiator Bob Welker said if the lump sum bonus was not included, nine-month faculty would likely only see a pay increase reflected in one paycheck, something he called “paltry and insulting” in light of the lack of raises and bonuses faculty have seen in recent years.
Dickinson said the bargaining team should keep in mind an “appreciation of the financial circumstances” of the past few years.
If the sides cannot reach an agreement, impasse can be declared and an agreement will be negotiated by a third party – a third party that could come with financial costs – before being decided upon by the USF Board of Trustees.
Dickinson said it seemed to the administrative team that the union was not cooperative.
“It looks to our team that this is not something Bob Welker or UFF wants and you want to test the process,” he said.
Welker said delaying an agreement was seemingly more in the university’s best interest because it would allow them to “save money.”
Ed Mitchell, executive director for the statewide UFF, who was present at Friday’s session, said he has witnessed several other Florida universities’ bargaining sessions.
“No other university has put an offer on the table this low,” he said.
The administrative team also proposed to retain the existing cap of 12.5 percent of base salary at a maximum of $12,500 as maximum income for summer courses for nine-month contracts, with an exception of $30,000 available for those supervising theses and dissertations. Without a cap, Welker had previously said some faculty could earn up to $25,000 on a single three-credit hour course load.
But Welker said the cap means nothing if there is no summer school – something he said was under question as costs of providing summer school were possibly too much for the university to bear in the future.
“The cap means not a darn thing if there’s no summer school,” he said. “It’s not a major concession if there’s no summer school.”
Kofi Glover, USF Vice Provost for Human Resources and Facilities, said it seemed summer school would only be off the table if no cap existed.
“There will be summer school, except if we cannot afford it,” he said. “If there is a cap, we can afford it. But if indeed there is no cap, and therefore we cannot pay some of the very high salaries, therefore we cannot afford summer school.”
Other agreements reached included a voluntary sick leave buyout program that USF President Judy Genshaft wrote in an email to all faculty last month was “intended to manage the university’s $28 million sick leave liability” and a grandfathered-in payout rate leave system for employees hired after the contract is ratified that would not affect current employees.
Gender identity and expression was additionally added as a protected category in the contract’s non-discrimination clause.
Though Dickinson left the room saying the two sides were not at an agreement, the administrative team valued the work accomplished. Welker said he remained hopeful for an agreement too.
“I didn’t hear the ‘i-word,'” he said.