Our day started with a big agenda. At the end of the day the two teams reached agreement on only one issue, but it was a big issue for flex staff. For those unfamiliar, flex staff employees aren’t eligible for benefits, don’t receive annual pay increases and aren’t covered by a lot of the language in our contract — they sort of function as an alternative to temp-agency staff.
The union was very clear about our members’ interests throughout the day:
- An easier-to-understand contract
- An end to the use of flex staff in lower-paid, entry-level positions
- An end to the use of flex staff to fill positions that should be filled by regular employees
After a lengthy discussion of the interests of both teams, and a longer-than-usual brainstorming session on potential solutions, the teams took a break from the joint session and each team took the opportunity to draft comprehensive responses. Under the ground rules for interest-based bargaining we do not disclose the specific “brainstorms” that lead to a solution, because we do not want to inhibit the ability of the parties to be creative. However, while both parties recognized the problems, they both presented very different solutions.
Both teams had several common elements in their proposed solutions:
- Simplifying the contract language (the current flex-staff language is a five-page appendix)
- Preserving the ability of flex-staff employees to be effective contingent workers, helping to meet OHSU’s operational needs
- Giving flex staff more rights under the contract, to be more integrated into the OHSU workforce
Both teams also recognized that the contract did not intend that flex employees be used as low-wage, non-benefitted, entry-level workers.
In the end, a tentative agreement reached at the end of a long day of negotiations.
Under the agreement reached, flex staff hired into the departments that make up half of the lowest paid portion of the flex-staff work force — Sterile Processing, Patient Transportation and Environmental Services — will be hired at the top of the first quartile of the pay range (7.5% above entry level).
This means that current flex-staff employees in those departments who are earning near entry-level wages will get a pay raise of up to 7.5% when the new contract goes into effect.
In addition to the increased pay for many flex staff, the contract language will provide for new job-bidding rights for flex employees. Appendix B – Conditions of Flex Staff Employment is being greatly simplified, and many of the exclusions from the contract are being eliminated.
Finally, we agreed on a definition of flex staff that clearly identifies that these employees are to be used for supplemental staffing and projects — short-term use — rather than for filling vacancies that require long-term, recurring, regular schedules.
Overall, this was a very successful day of bargaining, resulting in some nice gains for our flex staff, particularly those in lower-paid classifications.
Topics to be bargained on over the next few weeks include mobile-device usage by Food and Nutrition employees, scheduling of work, changes in reporting time, shift curtailment and cancelation.
Local 328 will be keeping you informed about our progress as these and other issues come to the table. We welcome feedback in the comments on our blog and in our Facebook group.