AFSCME Local 328 and OHSU tentatively agreed to a contract on Thurs., June 25, at approximately 11:00 p.m. after a two-day stretch of mediating for 28½ of the previous 37 hours. The agreement marks the culmination of four months of bargaining during which the parties met every week and opened and came to agreement on dozens of issues, both economic and non-economic.
Next week we will distribute a complete analysis of every issue. For now, we want to present the major issues that we know our represented employees are most interested in. We want to emphasize that among the issues you will read about next week (but that are not included in this update) are many that represent significant gains for our members.
We will hold the ratification vote online during the week of July 6 — exact times and instructions for participation will be posted online, as well as emailed to members, next week. You must be a dues-paying member in order to participate in the ratification vote. If you are currently a fair-share-fee payer, you may join the union in order to vote — we will present instructions next week on how to do that as well.
In addition to the distribution of written materials containing explanations of the complete agreement and all contract changes, the union will also hold worksite meetings during the week of July 6; at least one of these meetings will be live-streamed and archived for later viewing. We will announce times and locations next week for those who want to attend and ask questions about the contract.
Now for the highlights of the agreement —
Four-Year Agreement: The parties have agreed to a four-year contract.
Across-the-Board Wage Increases: OHSU’s original response to our wage proposal was for a four year agreement with wage increases totaling 4.75% (1.25%, 1.25%, 1% and 1.25%) over the life of the contract. Our settlement is for a four-year agreement with wage increases totaling 10% over the course of the contract:
- Year 1: 3%
- Year 2: 2.25%
- Year 3: 2.25%
- Year 4: 2.5%
The union insisted on 3% the first year so that PERS employees who currently receive the subsidy will not see a decrease in pay as a result of the subsidy ending on June 30.
Pay Progression: This was OHSU’s proposal to stretch the time needed to reach the top pay step out to 17 years. This, in the bargaining team’s opinion, was the single most important proposal to OHSU and represented the single most difficult issue for our bargaining team to come to grips with. It was a focus of our strike poll. Our members told us that a strike was a serious possibility if OHSU refused to compromise on this, but that most could live with a reasonable compromise. It was one of the last issues we moved on, and only at the eleventh hour in mediation did it become obvious that no settlement was possible unless the union made some movement. We ended up with a 13-year pay progression—less than half of what OHSU would have imposed without a union to bargain with. This movement opened the door to a settlement that contains many gains for our members in other areas.
Market-Based Wage Adjustments: This was a key area for the union and one where we believe we made major gains for members, although not many will see the day-to-day impact of these changes. The market-based wage committee adjusts salary ranges up or down to keep pace with the market. The current practice is to compare the middle of an OHSU pay range to the midpoint of a market pay range for a comparable occupation; if the OHSU pay is found to be above or below the market, a pay range increase or reduction can occur based on criteria set forth in a letter of agreement.
- The union negotiated a change in the criteria that trigger a pay-range adjustment, so that no downward adjustment can occur unless pay for an OHSU classification has been more than 10% above market for two consecutive years.
- In addition, we negotiated language that makes an upward adjustment easier than before — now an upward range movement is triggered when pay for an OHSU classification is below market by 5% for two consecutive years
- Finally, we negotiated an agreement that when a downward adjustment does occur, any employee paid above the new pay range is “redlined” (held at their current rate of pay) rather than moved down to the top step in the new, lower range.
- All look-back periods will be reset at the start of this agreement, which means that no downward adjustments of any kind can occur for at least two years.
- This is a major victory on an issue that was a centerpiece of our contract campaign.
UPP Changes: Our strike poll showed that members did not strongly oppose this employer proposal provided the union could make some modifications. We were able to gain some important benefits for our members from this.
- Pay-Range “Push”: Upon plan implementation, all pay ranges will move up 5% at the bottom of the range and up 6% at the top of the range. (OHSU’s original proposal was for the top of the range to move 5%.) This means that all employees within 5% of the bottom of the range will see an immediate increase in pay in addition to the across-the board increases also occurring that year. Only people within the bottom 5% of the range will get an immediate increase, but those paid above the bottom 5% the range will have an extra 6% of wage growth available to them. PERS employees will be able to use this wage growth to project higher average salaries toward retirement. Employees at the top step or the longevity step will have an extra 6% to grow their wages, and any time spent at top step counting toward their longevity increase before this range movement will be kept on the books and credited to them.
- UPP Pay Conversion: Upon plan implementation, UPP employees will receive a 6% pay increase in addition to any other contractual pay increases; the 6% retirement contribution pickup will cease. UPP employees will be able to immediately put the 6% pay increase into a tax-protected retirement plan and still have the full retirement contribution, but it will now be based on a higher average salary. We bargained that OHSU will provide financial counseling to employees upon request, so that the benefits of moving the pay increase into retirement are understood; the union strongly recommends that employees take advantage of this. UPP employees who put the 6% pay increase into a tax-free retirement account will see no reduction in retirement benefits and no reduction in take-home pay.
- Plan Implementation Date: The UPP package will be implemented in January 2016. After the PERS contribution changes, OHSU had promised to not make changes to UPP for five years and was prepared to honor that promise. However, this plan provides an opportunity for employees to start moving higher on the wage scale and putting more money into retirement because of the range push upward, so the union was agreeable to an earlier start date because of the advantages to employees created by the higher pay ranges.
Shift Differentials: OHSU had proposed major reductions in shift differential pay. The union was able to fight off the majority of these take-back proposals.
$15.00 Minimum Wage: This is a major gain for our low-wage workers — one that was, with all due credit, initiated by OHSU as part of their economic proposals. The union was glad to agree to this proposal.
- Following all contractually agreed pay adjustments as of the first full pay period following contract ratification, the base pay rate of any employee making less than $12.75/hour will be increased to $12.75.
- In July 2016, any employee make less than $13.75/hour will see their pay increased to $13.75.
- In July 2017, any employee making less than $15.00/hour will be increased to $15.00.
- In addition, under the market-based pay agreement, any pay range for which the midpoint is $15.00/hour or less will be protected against downward adjustment for the life of the contract.
Salaried Compensation & Vacation: The union successfully resolved our salaried members’ two biggest priorities.
- Guaranteed annual pay increases of a minimum of 1.5%
- Increased vacation accruals:
- 1-5 years: increased by 3 days
- 5-15 years: increased by 2 days
- Over 15 years: increased by 1 day
Pharmacy: OHSU initially came after Pharmacy differentials in a big way, proposing to eliminate their weekend and night-shift differentials completely. This was the one group of members who really stood up for themselves and each other—circulating petitions, holding major one-on-one discussions about bargaining and showing up with a huge turnout at one of our bargaining sessions.
As a result, management completely withdrew their proposed take-backs on weekend and night differentials for pharmacy techs and significantly reduced their proposed take-backs on night differentials for pharmacists. The night-shift differential for pharmacists will be reduced from 20.5% to 18.5% on July 1 and to 16.5% in July 2016, with no further reductions for the life of the contract. The union did not succeed in increasing compensation for salaried pharmacists who work extra shifts.
Pharmacists will also benefit from new guaranteed annual increases for salaried personnel and increased salaried vacation accruals.
Health-Insurance Security: While the union was not able to prevail with its proposed increases in the employer health-insurance contributions, a four-year contract ensures that members will have longer-term health-insurance security.
Seniority/Performance: This was another major issue for OHSU. If you recall, OHSU originally proposed linking the suspension of a wide variety of seniority-based benefits to written reprimands. This was an issue that pretty much set our hair on fire as union activists and staff. However, we heard from a lot of members who felt differently and felt that the union shouldn’t be overly protective of poorly performing employees. This is one of those areas where the union would have preferred to make no changes, but just as we had areas where we could not walk away without changes, so did OHSU, and all bargaining entails compromise.
What we ultimately agreed to was NO linkage to written reprimands, but once an employee reaches the third step of discipline (immediately prior to termination), temporary suspension of some seniority-based privileges could be included in a final written warning. The items that managers may (or not, at their discretion) include in a final written warning are: vacation/holiday bidding, voluntary-overtime bidding and job bidding—managers can revoke up to two of these for up to one year. All of this remains subject to the grievance procedure if an employee feels that s/he was not disciplined for just cause.
Holiday Pay for Relief Employees: Earlier in bargaining, the union agreed to additional requirements for relief employees’ availability, with the intent to later negotiate for a holiday-pay benefit for relief employees. Finally, late in mediation, OHSU agreed that any relief employee working a shift on a holiday will receive four additional hours of straight-time pay.
Contracting-Out Severance Expansion: The contractual definition of contracting out has been broadened to include displacements due to mergers and acquisitions, making more employees eligible for this important benefit.
Voluntary Retirement Incentive: Later this year, many employees will be eligible for a voluntary retirement incentive worth up to $20,000. The details of eligibility and the various options available to employees will be spelled out in our comprehensive review of the agreement coming out next week. The program is strictly voluntary.
Equity and Inclusion: The union proposed a series of initiatives to promote inclusion within the OHSU community and equitable treatment of our members, as well as addressing workload and diversity issues.
- Community Employment Initiative: Within six months of contract ratification, AFSCME and OHSU will establish a community-employment committee to work on recruitment and retention of underrepresented and ethnic minorities at OHSU, with the purpose of evaluating employment and career-development needs.
- Translation Services: Upon request, OHSU will provide on-site translation services for employee needs (e.g., during an investigatory interview or grievance meeting). In addition, OHSU will translate into five languages and make available a one-page document explaining HR information (e.g., benefits and retirement), how to access the union, AAEO services and other key information.
- Prayer Space: OHSU will provide locations to employees who desire privacy and a safe space to practice their faith and post the locations of safe prayer spaces on O2.
- Gender-Neutral Restrooms: If an employee has concerns about accessing gender-neutral restrooms, or if a single-occupancy gender-neutral restroom is unavailable, they can contact their manager/HR business partner for assistance in designating a multi-occupancy restroom as a safe space. Additionally $3,000 has been set aside for additional signage to identify certain multi-occupancy restrooms as safe spaces.
- Meat-/Dairy-Free Microwave Ovens: A dedicated microwave will be added to the third-floor cafeteria to accommodate the needs of employees with religious dietary restrictions.
- Basic Computer Training: OHSU will provide basic computer training, on paid time, for all employees who cannot demonstrate basic computer proficiency.
- Multilingual Safety Training: OHSU will continue its efforts to make safety training/information understandable for all employees, including those not fluent in English.
- Non-Occupational Illness & Injury Accommodation: For employees who have suffered a non-work-related injury, OHSU has agreed to train HR business partners on ways to return these employees to work with temporary work modifications.
- Seniority Restoration Following Extended Medical Leave: Employees who have been out on extended medical leave will retain their seniority if they return to OHSU.
- Telecommuting Task Force: AFSCME and OHSU have agreed to create a telecommuting task force to take a serious look at how to expand employees’ ability to work from home. The task force will report to OHSU’s CFO, who will serve as the executive sponsor for the task force.
This is a summary of the major points of our agreement. There are many more points, most of which provide additional benefits to our members. We will provide a complete review of all agreements next week.
Overall, this was an excellent bargaining session with historically good outcomes in many areas, despite compromises in some others.
Thank you all for your support during bargaining!