Bargaining Teams Begin Contract Talks 3/5

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Proposals & Topics

During the bargaining process, what we call a proposal is specific contract language that either side puts on the table for consideration. An interest-based bargaining topic is a general statement of a problem area that either team puts forward to be used a subject for discussion using our agreed-upon problem-solving process. Another way of thinking about this is that proposals represent traditional bargaining and topics represent problem statements to be resolved using IBB.

Prior to beginning IBB, management introduced some proposals for the union’s consideration. Several of these proposals were responses to proposals previously made and submitted to or by the union. The union team considers management’s proposals in our caucuses and responds to management at a future session. The first few bargaining sessions are always loaded with initial proposals and IBB topics.

We will report on proposals and topics as they get placed on the agenda. Economic proposals will not be exchanged until mid-April — earlier than in previous sessions. We don’t want a repeat of OHSU’s eleventh-hour introduction of shocking economic take-backs such as we experienced with management’s PERS proposal in 2012.

Today’s Progress

The two teams had decided to select a real-world problem to work on in an earlier joint training, but one that would lend itself to resolution — this was to give the teams an actual concern to work on but that was not likely to be overly contentious. The article we selected to work on was Article 5.3 – Definition of Consensus, which addresses the process used for work groups to develop consensus agreements  (such as around vacation scheduling — see Article 12.4.1).

This short article has actually resulted in problems in several work units, in that it does not clearly define who should participate in the consensus process, how voting should occur, how consensus agreements are reported to the union and OHSU or how to deal with consensus agreements that step outside the intent of the definition.

Since this was the first day that the two teams have worked an actual IBB problem, the process understandably took most of the day — the process will get faster in the future, as we work together. The teams did reach a tentative agreement on some good changes to the consensus process:

  • We will identify in the consensus definition the specific sections of the contract that may be amended by the consensus process.
  • The consensus process may be initiated by either management or a group of 10 percent of the employees in a work group/unit.
  • The process may be used within a whole work unit or for a smaller group within the work unit if that is more applicable.
  • All employees affected by a proposed consensus agreement are allowed to vote, all workers must get a reasonable opportunity to vote and 80 percent of the employees voting will determine consensus.
  • All consensus agreements must be made readily available to affected employees and all employees new to a work unit must be given copies of any consensus agreements in effect for that unit.
  • A consensus agreement may be rescinded if representatives from OHSU Human Resources and AFSCME Local 328 staff representatives agree that it violates another section of the contract or adversely impacts employees not party to the agreement.
  • A bargaining subcommittee will be formed to develop a set of guidelines for departments to use to assist them in developing agreements and reaching consensus.

The teams finished up the day in separate caucuses reviewing each other’s IBB topics, reviewing responses to proposals and discussing future agenda items. The management responses to union proposals considered by the Local 328 team included:

  • Union-member leave — (a) re: presenting at New Employee Orientation and (b) changes that would allow for intermittent union leave but increase management’s discretion in granting leave.
  • Performance evaluations — language that establishes the expectation that employees receive yearly evaluations, but that does not include the union’s proposal that employees be allowed to challenge certain critical information.
  • Sick leave — Local 328 had proposed language requiring managers to state exactly what their concerns are when requesting fitness-for-duty medical exams. OHSU responded with language that responded to some of our concerns but did not address our major concerns.
  • Evaluation periods — Management responded to our proposal that probationary employees be laid off before employees on internal-job-change trial service, least senior first.
  • Removal from trial service — OHSU proposed language restricting the right of employees to return to their previous job if removed from trial service.
  • Education and training — Management responded to the union’s proposal re: increasing members’ rights to use the Career and Workplace Enhancement Center
  • Job bidding — The employer proposed changes in job-bid language that would increase the rights of probationary and trial-service employees to job bid, but would somewhat restrict the rights of trial-service employees to apply for available internal positions.

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.

Hiring Freeze? Bargaining?

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While there has been no official announcement, several OHSU employees report that a hiring freeze has started in Central Services, which covers areas such as ITG, Facilities and Logistics and Central Financial Services  In addition, Local 328 has been notified that a hiring “frost” will go into effect in departments reporting to the Provost and the Chief Financial Officer, where vacancies will be more closely reviewed before a decision is made on whether to fill them.

This is the third freeze since 2009, but what makes this one different is the reason, or rather, the lack of reason.  The 2009 freeze came when we were in the middle of the worst recession in decades.  In 2013 OHSU was impacted by Congress’ budget sequestration and management expressed uncertainty over health care reform.  But this year there is no apparent economic problem, in fact OHSU’s financial outlook is good, according to Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furhstahl’s latest report.   So why the belt-tightening, and why now?

OHSU’s operating income is down $10 million compared to last year, but that is only part of the picture.  On the whole, the hospital’s position is strong – Furnstahl estimates fiscal year 2015 earnings at approximately $95 million. He believes further earnings could be realized by controlling year-over-year growth costs, especially in supplies and services.  More good news: OHSU’s total net worth now stands at $2.4 billion, an increase of $28 million over last year.  But wait, there’s more: total cash and investments now stand at $739 million, which is a one-year increase of $14 million, according to Furnstahl.

There is a lot of optimism around OHSU these days, and for good reason – fund-raising for the Knight challenge has almost reached the $500 million goal, the waterfront expansion is booming and the hospital’s financial house is in good order.  As Local 328 begins contract bargaining it will be interesting to see whether the freeze, whatever its cause, becomes an issue when we start negotiating wage increases for OHSU employees.

Bargaining Teams Meet!

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Union and OHSU Management Bargaining Teams Meet

The union and OHSU met for the first time today in the 2015 contract-bargaining process. The purpose of today’s meeting was to train both teams in the interest-based problem-solving process that is used in interest- based bargaining.

OHSU and the union have used IBB since the late 1990s to come to agreement on our contracts. IBB is a collaborative process of coming to agreement on issues raised by the union, its members and OHSU managers about changes in the contract.

The contract, also sometimes called the labor agreement or the collective-bargaining agreement, is the document that contains all the terms and conditions of employment for our members – wages, health-care benefits, retirement, vacation, sick leave and much more – and preserves and guarantees those working conditions for the term of the agreement.

Members should be aware that those guarantees are only in effect for the term of the agreement. When the agreement comes to an end, a new contract must be negotiated. That is the process we are beginning now.

IBB will not be familiar to most people who imagine the popular image of union negotiations as consisting of two teams of people in smoke-filled rooms making demands of each other from across a table strewn with stacks of paper.

What happens in IBB is that the teams sit together and have open dialogue about issues and the interests behind each issue – why each issue is important to each team. The next step is to have an open and free brainstorming session that may develop a broad range of possible solutions. From this array of possible solutions, one or more may be selected and tweaked prior to testing for consensus. For IBB, consensus means agreement by everyone on both teams. We may have to go through several cycles of trying and modifying possible solutions before coming to an agreement.

Needless to say, this process can be complicated, and it depends on the willingness of both teams to work together. Today’s training session was designed to teach the IBB process to help the teams get to know each other. The session was facilitated by Paul Krissel, who will again be our process facilitator throughout contract bargaining. The teams participated in a number of training exercises and ended the day with a practice IBB session by beginning to bargain an actual issue – the consensus process defined in the contract. We did not finish the IBB process on this issue due to lack of time, so agreement has not been reached yet.

The first full contract bargaining session is scheduled for March 5. The bargaining teams will meet every Thursday thereafter until we reach agreement.

Please forward bargaining-related emails to your coworkers in case they aren’t getting them for some reason. The more our members know about our bargaining process, the more effective we can be as a union!

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