USF declares impasse in faculty bargaining


After a year and a half of heated bargaining sessions, the administrative bargaining team declared an impasse Monday afternoon in reaching a collective bargaining agreement with the representatives of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida bargaining team.

The impasse on the contract, which expired in May 2013, will now be settled by a third party magistrate before being decided upon by the Board of Trustees (BOT) Labor Committee as the union and administration present their cases.

John Dickinson, the administration’s chief negotiator, said impasse was declared after the last bargaining session on April 11, in which the university put forth a proposal that the union said they could not agree to. 

“We’re at a point where we don’t seem to be making any headway in negotiation and there needs to be some end to this so faculty can see some wage increase,” Dickinson said. 

The administration’s proposal for raises would only be applicable from the time of ratification until August 2014, due to the two sides’ decision to reduce the duration of the next contract from three years to one year and would not be retroactively applicable. The administration proposed a 2.5 percent base salary increase to all faculty members and the allocation of 1 percent of the total base salary to be distributed at the administration’s discretion for merit-based raises and awards. 

While the union initially rejected the proposal for the 1 percent Administrative Discretionary Increases (ADI), citing that only about 20 percent of the faculty would be impacted by it, they said they would accept the proposal if the administration would agree to a one-time 2.5 percent bonus on top of the 2.5 percent base increase to compensate for the time since bargaining began when faculty received no raises. 

In a letter sent from the Union to all faculty members on Friday, the proposal was called a “low blow” and a “sucker punch” to “marginalize the salary and benefits of the underpaid and under-appreciated employees.”

“If your 9 month base salary is $60,000, you might receive $1,500 that would have been distributed over 19.5 pay periods if the increase was effective on August 7, 2013,” the letter said. “Now all you would receive during the 2013-2014 academic year would be approximately $38.00 gross as 19 pay periods are history. If your 9-month base salary is $80,000, you would receive approximately $51.00 gross. Yes, that is ‘GROSS.’ Let’s rent a ‘party bus’ and drive it all over the Tampa campus hollering ‘GO BULLS’ and possibly to St. Pete and Sarasota if we can afford the gas.” 

Chief negotiator for the union’s bargaining team Bob Welker said he thought President Judy Genshaft probably didn’t find that part of the letter – or the YouTube links to videos about capuchin monkeys rejecting unfair pay and the 1973 Strawbs song, “Part of the Union,” – funny, but “what really was not funny,” he said, was the administration’s “pathetic” proposals. 

In his letter, he questioned the university’s paying close to $7 million to fired coaches. 

Though he said the money used to payout the coaches comes from the Foundation and other sources, the impression it creates is frustrating to faculty. 

“My people look at that and go, ‘Holy Christmas! I’d like a contract that says if you fire me, I’ll give you a million bucks,'” he said. 

Dickinson said faculty is integral to the mission of the university and that he is hopeful an agreement can be reached soon. 

From here, he said, the Public Employees Relations Commission in Tallahassee will recommend a list of magistrates from which the union and the administration must select. 

If both sides accept the recommendation of the magistrate, the contract will begin the ratification process. If it is rejected, either in total or in part, both sides will present to the BOT Labor Committee, who will issue the final verdict.

The union can also waive the process to present directly to the BOT Labor Committee. If a third party magistrate is used, both sides must split the costs incurred.

Welker said the system is not fair, however. 

Unlike in bargaining outside university systems, Welker said, the decision makers on the BOT are appointed rather than elected. 

“At the end, they can say ‘This is what we’re giving you, so too bad,” he said. 

Dickinson said the impasse process could take some time, though he didn’t know exactly how long. The prospect of reaching an agreement before then, he said, has not been ruled out. 

“We can continue to meet if they want to meet,” he said. “We’re willing to meet… we’ve said from Day 1, we’d love to have a contract. Every time we try to get an agreement it seems as though something comes up and Mr. Welker particularly becomes kind of set in a position that he’s agreed to certain things.”

Welker said in the past, impasse has been declared but the two sides have reached an agreement before the impasse process finished.