3/19 Bargaining Session — Flex-Staff Employees Gain

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Today’s Progress

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:

  • Fairness
  • Consistency
  • 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.

Upcoming Topics

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.

10 thoughts on “3/19 Bargaining Session — Flex-Staff Employees Gain”

  1. Nice job for the flex staffers. Hope they recognize the gain. Is there any impact to other departments or just those that have a high percentage of flex staff?

    1. There will be other impacts as some of the language changes are designed to encourage the use of FTE in some situations where flex staff are currently used. In addition, flex staff will now have limited job bid rights, they had none before. Further, the employer indicated that they intend to make some policy changes regarding the use of flex staff based on implications of the Affordable Care Act, but those changes have nothing to do with the contract, but may result in some limitation on the number of hours flex staff can work in a week.

      Only the departments listed are affected by the higher minimum starting wage.

      1. There are many improvements in this language for both flex staff employees and the union. One of our major goals was eliminating the practice of hiring flex staff to fill what should be FTE positions and we were 100% successful!

      2. So what does this mean for the FTE employees who are still not getting the highest pay in the first tear? Do we also get the pay raise?

        1. Not this raise, you will get the across the board raise that hasn’t been negotiated yet. FTE employees get benefits, flex employees do not. The main purpose of this raise is to discourage departments who hire flex employees as entry level and work them full time without benefits. Most of these folks would gladly not be flex but they weren’t given a choice. As a Union, we want as many members as possible to be benefited employees and to discourage the use of non benefited employees except when Flex status is clearly the employee’s preference for their personal reasons.

  2. Good job team!!! When my sister first started working at OHSU she was flex for a long time…. I believe for about year and half actually. She worked every weekend and Mondays on a set schedule of 3 -10hrs shifts. I never understood why she was not a regular employee. Great job at improving wages. #PeopleAreMoreThanBottomLines #WorkersMatter!

  3. This is really excellent for all of the members. I feel like it sends a strong message that we are all really a team and what happens to the “least of us” has impacts for all of us. Nice Work!!

    1. Some food and nutrition employees are not allowed to use their mobile phones when on break or lunch in the cafeterias. It’s a relatively small group of people but we think it’s unfair to single them out for this treatment. Other employees may use phones when in the cafeterias.

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