Category Archives: Bargaining 2015

Comments Of The Week – What Are Your Coworkers Saying About Bargaining?

The top three comments win a neat grab bag of goodies — delivered in person!

Top 3

Jennifer Barker

MAY 29, 2015 AT 11:08 AM

One major issue with OHSU’s plan is that it creates a form of double punishment for higher-seniority employees who get disciplined. Suppose a department has two employees with written warnings—its most senior employee, who has worked at OHSU for 10 years, and its least senior, who has worked at OHSU for 2 years. Come vacation-scheduling time, the employee with only 2 years’ seniority would have had last pick anyway, so OHSU’s proposed restrictions don’t have an additional effect on them—they’re already at the bottom for seniority even without the discipline. So, both of these employees have received the same level of discipline, but the punishment is harsher for the most-senior employee. How is that fair?

Nobody, coworkers or managers, likes working with lazy, jerky employees. What OHSU has proposed is not the way to deal with them. Managers already have the tools they need to deal with problem employees—how many of them actually use these tools? If you’re in a department with someone you feel is consistently performing poorly, you might ask why your manager isn’t taking the steps necessary to discipline that employee in order to improve the working conditions of everyone else.

Many of us have worked for, or have friends who’ve worked for, bad managers here. Many of us have also seen OHSU do mass layoffs, cut retirement benefits, etc. over the years. Do folks really believe that there won’t be bad managers who use this proposal unfairly or that OHSU wouldn’t take advantage of it if they needed to do some drastic cost-cutting in the future? This proposal has the potential for serious negative ramifications. I’ve worked with a lousy employee before, and it does make one’s work life more unpleasant. The way to deal with poor performers, however, is to actually discipline/manage the individual poor performers, not to take away the contract rights of more than 5,500 employees.

Have you noticed that OHSU hasn’t proposed anything to reward high performers? They don’t even go through the motions of holding an annual holiday/employee appreciation event anymore. OHSU has been in excellent financial shape for years, but they’re not even willing to shell out for some cheese cubes and mini-cheesecakes once a year to thank their employees.

Today’s email from OHSU about their proposal states “We feel strongly that OHSU’s agreement with AFSCME should reflect our organization’s value of performance excellence and promote fairness for all employees.” The union agrees! OHSU’s way of showing how much they value performance excellence is to propose stretching out our pay progression, keeping our wages average, carving away our contract rights, etc. Do you feel valued?

DM

MAY 31, 2015 AT 9:04 PM

My biggest concern with this proposal is the belief that disciplinary action is a measure of performance. It’s degrading as an employee. What about the skills I bring to make sure the patient experience is optimal? The care, collaboration, and education I provide? For example, an Medical Assistant who clocks in a few minutes late three times in a quarter receives disciplinary action. However, this has nothing to do with job performance in the sense of functioning in direct patient care or as a medical team member. Another MA could clock-in right on time to the minute everyday but, not be able to take blood pressures correctly (an actual performance function of the job) that affects everyone’s workflow and results in poor patient experience at the visit. Regardless of this gross misdirection of discussing employee performance in the context of disciplinary action, vacation and holiday bids should not be targeted, that feels like maybe “cruel” but, definitely “unusual punishment” that should be avoided. I can understand the argument for loss of the seniority benefit for layoff protection and job/hire bids however, not at such a low level of disciplinary action. If these are going to be implemented, then it needs to be only after escalating to multiple disciplinary levels and maybe even stipulations about what type of behavior was continuing to occur.

T

MAY 29, 2015 AT 3:17 PM

I’ve been at OHSU for almost ten years. In that time I’ve had seven managers, going on eight. Some were good; some were bad. Not that much has changed with me. Some of those approached our operations with a punitive mentality and some were encouraging and over the top helpful.

All in all, I’ve experienced a whirly dervish of a department. The temperament that I’ve experienced when I walk through those doors over the years have been vastly inconsistent.
The takeaway is this: managers come and go. There are plenty of bad ones. There are plenty of good ones. But employees stay loyal. If an employee has seniority and has been slapped with some discipline for who knows what, it’s most likely a clashing of personalities. There’s a due process to get rid of bad apples. However, this proposal reeks of vendettas and bush league managerial tactics.

Honorable Mentions

Philip

MAY 29, 2015 AT 12:05 PM

OHSU has all the tools they need to either motivate underperforming employees to improve or to weed them out. OHSU management doesn’t use them very well. Takes too much effort to manage well. Easier to just cram some automatic arbitrary punishment into the contract and the problem is solved. So next contract will they propose that vacation scheduling be determined by performance? This allegedly is an institution of higher learning. Seems like grade school to me.

fed up

MAY 30, 2015 AT 7:48 AM

I really don’t understand how they think this is ok. It seems like they want to take away all your union rights once you make a mistake. What safe-guards are there to guarantee managers won’t increase the number of written warnings knowing they can shake up things like vacation and holiday staffing? Their proposals are getting more and more frustrating!

Tami, +15 years

MAY 30, 2015 AT 6:10 PM

Well said 151! Can you imagine not having a union? Unpaid sick and vacation, getting fired on a manager’s whim, getting sent home or called in whenever? It can’t be said enough MEMBERS are AFSCME, the bargaining team follows our lead so we individuals need to speak up.

Matt

MAY 29, 2015 AT 6:17 AM

OHSU is heading down the wrong path. It is time for us to say no. If you care for something you don’t sit silent while it makes a big mistake. OHSU is on the cusp of making a number of short sighted decisions. OHSU is starting to lose it way, let’s get it back on track.

5/28 Bargaining Session — OHSU Proposes Drastic Changes to Seniority Rights

Bargaining today was largely taken up with finalizing several agreements left over from last week’s interest-based bargaining session and introducing proposals on issues that weren’t concluded in IBB. Both teams had a substantial set of proposals that will be considered next week and in the following weeks during traditional bargaining and mediation. We are approaching the end game.

The big development today was OHSU proposing a long list of changes to the application of seniority when coupled with disciplinary actions. Management stated a desire to tie contract rights to an employee’s performance.

In short, OHSU proposes that employees who have had a written reprimand or higher in the last 12 months:

  • They lose the right to exercise seniority for accepting voluntary overtime.
  • They lose the right to be a union steward.
  • They lose the right to exercise seniority to bid on vacation.
  • They lose the right to exercise seniority to bid on holiday time off.
  • They lose the right to job bid.
  • They lose their layoff rights (including initial selection for layoff and displacement rights).

In addition, employees who have had discipline at the third step (final written warning, pay reduction, suspension) in the last twelve months:

  • Lose the right to be placed from the preferential hire list.
  • Lose their next progression increase in pay.

These proposals, in addition to being radical changes to traditional seniority rights, raise a number of questions:

  • Is it hard to receive a written reprimand? Can you imagine needing to take five sick days over the course of three months? Can you imagine making a mistake when entering data? Can you imagine getting really sick and not filing FMLA in time to protect yourself?
  • Could the ability to suspend the contract rights of employees who have active discipline encourage managers to give out more discipline?
  • How many employees could survive being under the microscope if it were to the employer’s advantage to discipline people?
  • Would this change make it more or less likely for an employee to grieve a written reprimand and fight it to the end, rather than work with his/her manager to improve performance?
  • Isn’t this double discipline — giving management two bites at the apple? Isn’t being disciplined punishment enough?
  • Should a pay raise that an employee is counting on be tied to discipline?
  • Managers can already use progressive discipline to fire poor-performing employees — do they also need the power to take employees’ contract rights away before they fire them?
  • Is there an argument to be made for linking higher-level discipline to PHL placement or to things like bumping rights after layoff?
  • Shouldn’t OHSU be thinking of ways to reward good performance instead (instead of, you know, dragging everyone down to average)?

Tell us what you think. The floor is open.

Pay Progression – Members Speak Out!

We’ve selected the top blog comments from last week. (We’ve removed identifying information.)

The top three comments of each week will receive a prize package from AFSCME Local 328. Keep commenting and see if your comment makes the cut next week!

Top Three

What is OHSU’s “quit rate”? I have watched many people jump from job to job in OHSU or leave OHSU altogether because you will get more money changing positions, even doing the same job, than you will staying in your position.

My job takes one year to learn and two to three years to master, even starting with a strong skill set. The duties are cyclical, following the academic year, and there are many high-level tasks that only happen once a year. I have stayed in my position and become a master, but I certainly haven’t stayed for the money. I cannot imagine it taking 17 years to reach the top of my pay scale, instead of ten. When you already have five years in a job, staying 12 more to max out seems ridiculous, where five is reasonable. There is absolutely no reason to stay that long when you can change jobs and make more money, and having mastered my position I can try to advance to a better job title. That leaves my program spending half the longevity of each person who holds this role training them.

I entered my career believing that you should stay with an employer as long as you can because they will take care of you. Well, I am about to get my ten-year pin and I am not feeling appreciated at all. I am told I make too much — last year my pay rate was adjusted DOWN to make a scale look aligned with a state average, and now I am being told that it will take longer to reach the maximum pay rate, a rate that is LOWER than it is now, to align with another average.

This is not right. This is not good for employees. This does not encourage longevity. This is not something we should meet halfway on; the answer is NO, we will not accept 9.25% over 17 years instead of 12.5% over 10 years.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never striven to be “average.” I have always wanted to be extraordinary and have been praised by managers for being exceptional. Not average.

  • The certificate that came with my anniversary award is signed by Dr. Joe Robertson. It says “We fervently believe that Oregon Health and Science University is only as strong as the commitment that we receive each and every day from dedicated associates like you.”

Whatever.

OHSU speaks one set of values of its employees and acts with a totally different set of values. Obviously they see us as a tremendously negative financial burden to them. Talent, dedication and commitment to excellence do not seem to be part of their equation. As they continue to cut into our benefits and pay they eventually will end up getting what they seem to be aiming for — mediocrity.

We deserve much better than what OHSU proposes and we should all be ready to hold the line. Let’s support the bargaining team in rejecting OHSU’s shortsighted and self-defeating proposals and help OHSU save them from themselves.

  • As an employee with more than ten years at OHSU, I have to say that I find this proposal demoralizing and somewhat offensive. I am happy in my job and with the management in my work unit, but the overall OHSU management is just greedy and deceitful. They keep making it harder and harder to justify staying here. I sort of think this is the goal. As anyone who has been at OHSU very long knows, there are A LOT of people who work here for decades, and this proposal would deal a huge blow to these people, perhaps even enough to get many of us to leave. Then they can hire a bunch of newbies at a fraction of the cost. Never mind the fact that they are screwing over the people who helped build OHSU over the last decade or two. Do not accept this proposal under any circumstances! It undermines so much of what the union has fought for over the years. This is huge, and we need to fight it!

Honorable Mention

  • I have to say, I was hoping to make OHSU my work-home for the rest of my career, in one form or another.

But with every subsequent bargaining session, I feel less and less valued and more ready to start finding work elsewhere. It’s obvious to me that OHSU doesn’t value its employees as much it does the bottom line. It makes me sad, and angry.

  • Pharmacists at this institution are expected to perform as leaders in excellence, as we should be, but compensated at maybe the middle of the pack? A pack that I believe to be cherry picked for the lower end of average? What are they thinking?

Are managers taking any cuts? Are we looking at whether they need to take pay cuts and retirement benefit decreases? Shoot, do we even look at other institutions number of managers? We are overflowing with them and the leadership of our department is terrible.

Why would they think that decreasing pay and benefits would make us want to work harder? How can this attract new skilled employees in any field, let alone one that is a huge part of the safety of this hospital? How can we be expected to continually increase the amount of work required with fewer resources, and now with less pay?

No chance any of these questions will be honestly answered. I’d strike if it comes down to that.

  • I love my job at OHSU. I do not want to have to imagine myself working for a new employer. Once again we are hearing about “industry standards.” What industry? Where?

Each day I am required to produce excellent high quality work in an ever changing and challenging environment and I feel that I continue to rise to the occasion. I am disappointed to be asked to be compensated at a standard rate and asked to produce excellent work.

This new proposal is laughable. Do not accept this cut in pay!

  • OHSU leaders seem to have spent a lot of time and effort finding complex and misleading ways to state that they want to pay their employees less money. If, at every contract negotiation, OHSU wishes to lessen pay and benefits for employees, I am not sure why anyone would ever wish to do excellent quality work here. Seems like market-standard work would be good enough for OHSU.
  • Proposals like this impact every individual in the department. Our department continues to lose skilled, long-term employees who “max out” of pay increases yet are continually asked to take on more and more responsibilities. The onboarding process at OHSU is steep and requires a lot of time, money AND commitment from the rest of the team to cover work until the new person is able to work independently. A plan that does not incentivize the individuals that are highly skilled, effective and well established in their positions is shortsighted and will cost more money in the end. Patients will notice, co-workers will feel stressed, departments will be less efficient and management will have to commit more time/money to training if we do not, as an institution, value our long-term employees.

I rate my job satisfaction on being challenged by my work, on the people I work for and with and on whether I feel valued by the people I work for and with. This is not just an AFSCME issue; this is an issue for all OHSU.

5/21 Bargaining Session — Unsigned Agreements, Equity & Inclusion, Daily-Overtime Waiver

Unsigned Tentative Agreements

The teams started out the day discussing concerns about the two tentative agreements reached last week. The first TA in question was regarding Article 6.8.5 – Removal of Materials from Personnel Records. The teams had differing recollections about the restrictions that were placed on the use of disciplinary records older than two years. We will take up this discussion again next week. The second TA in question was regarding Article 18 – Filling of Vacancies. In this case, the concern was about how the TA was worded, not over what the agreement meant. We will work on sorting out the wording during the week and should have a document ready for signature next week.

Equity & Inclusion “Accommodations Package”

The first new issue discussed today was the union’s equity and inclusion “accommodations package” that we initially presented early in bargaining — back on March 12. This package includes a wide range of union initiatives designed to provide for the needs of employees who are not of the dominant culture:

  • Providing on-site translation services for employee needs (e.g., during an investigatory interview or grievance meeting).
  • Translating critical documents, such as safety instructions, OHSU benefits information, the union contract and the OHSU Code of Conduct.
  • Providing prayer space for employees who desire privacy and a safe space to practice their faith.
  • Making gender-neutral restrooms available.
  • Accommodating the needs of employees with religious dietary restrictions (e.g., providing extra microwaves in cafeterias).

During the brainstorming session, a wide variety of potential solutions were presented by both teams. After brainstorming, the management team asked for a caucus, after which they expressed concern about their capacity to address many of the solutions at this time due to cost implications (the option to try to negotiate non-economic solutions today remained on the table). The union team was surprised by this and asked for our own caucus. The union team decided not to split our accommodations package into economic issues and non-economic issues and to bargain them separately instead. We felt that our members’ interests would be better served by submitting a complete package as a proposal (outside of the interest-based bargaining process). We will present this proposal next week.

Waivers of Daily Overtime

The second issue discussed today was one raised by management — the process around the waiver of daily overtime. The management team’s main concern was the frustration that some managers and employees have experienced when a waiver was initially denied by the union and they had to go back to the union for repeated clarification before the waiver was ultimately granted.

The union team’s main concern was that employees could be pressured to sign a daily-overtime waiver when they really didn’t want to, but they submitted the form because either their manager or peers had the expectation that they would. In the end, we reached a tentative agreement that sought to protect employees from being pressured into submitting a waiver when they were new to the job and to remove the barriers to getting a waiver for more senior employees:

  • Employees will be required to get union approval for a waiver of daily overtime when they are in evaluation period (initial probation upon hire or after an internal job change or job bid).
  • Outside of probation or other evaluation period, employees may, with manager approval, waive daily overtime by submitting a completed form to their supervisor and Payroll; the form will also be sent to the union, but union approval is not required.
  • Employees have the right to cancel the daily-overtime waiver at any time by notifying Payroll and their manager.
  • Over the course of the contract, a system for processing the waiver forms electronically will be developed.
  • If the Union believes managers are pressuring employees to sign daily overtime waivers or if management believes the union is unreasonably denying the waivers, upon the request of either party, the union and HR will jointly investigate the concerns.

This was the last week of interest-based bargaining. Next week will be dedicated to discussing the unsigned TAs, wrapping up outstanding non-economic proposals, presenting the union’s accommodations package and gearing up to begin economic bargaining.

Be sure to read and comment about additional timely issues on our blog:

Why Are The Union And OHSU So Far Apart?

Why did the union make the economic proposals we did? Why are differences in the union’s proposal’s and OHSU’s proposals so vast?

As bargaining currently stands, OHSU and Local 328 have both made initial proposals but have yet to respond to each other’s proposals. We will be responding to each other at the end of May. You may read a detailed description of the union’s proposals on our blog.

Many factors were considered in developing the union’s proposals:

  • OHSU’s excellent financial health and rosy revenue forecast.
  • An economy that is generally improving.
  • Member responses to union surveys
  • The financial impact of the PERS take-backs on employees and OHSU’s stated intent to eliminate the 3% PERS subsidy at the end of the current contract.
  • OHSU’s stated intent to not extend our contract if we are not done bargaining by the end of June.
  • The knowledge that when OHSU needed sacrifice, AFSCME-represented employees sacrificed — even though it felt like that sacrifice wasn’t shared by all at OHSU.
  • The fact that “the market” is an uneven playing field for workers — “the market” is determined by non-unionized employers that don’t have to negotiate with their workers on compensation.
  • The fact that we have a union and a union gives its members power—if the members are willing to exercise it.

The differences in the philosophy — our interests — of OHSU and AFSCME may be summed up quite simply:

  • OHSU believes that in order to be a leading health-care, education and research center, they must attract the best employees. They believe that by implementing a series of take-backs on wages (which is what the PERS take-back was), pay progression and UPP retirement contributions; driving wages closer to market average and alternately incentivizing and punishing the more senior workers to encourage them to leave the work force they can attain a benefit structure (that nice bell curve where there are very few people at the top) that is only slightly above average, but just enough above to attract new, less senior workers.
  • AFSCME also believes that in order for OHSU to be a leading health-care, education and research center, it must attract the best employees. We believe that the way to do that is to maintain our position as a market leader in compensation; provide individual family security through excellent health-insurance and retirement plans; offer meaningful work-life balance by giving employees some control over schedules, overtime, vacations and holidays. OHSU can retain the best employees by not forcing them to work off the clock or through breaks to keep up with increasing workloads, by staffing adequately, by creating an inclusive and welcoming climate (not just for faculty but for everyone in our OHSU community) by providing job security, by preserving our employees’ institutional knowledge and by honoring workers who have given most of their adult lives to this organization.

That’s the difference — the union difference.

17 Years to Get to the Top?

What do you think about OHSU’s proposal to extend the length of time it takes to get to the top of your pay range from 10 years to 17 years?

What do you think about how OHSU’s proposal will delay by 5 years your ability to claim your longevity increase?

How do you feel about losing the $13,000 OHSU’s proposal will cost you?

They read this blog. They look at the comments.

Tell them. They’d like to know.

5/14 Bargaining Session — Agreements on Disciplinary Records and Filling of Vacancies

The bargaining teams reached two agreements today. The agreements produced gains for employees by offering new protections for members trying to promote or transfer, as well as gains for employees who are doing extra work because of unfilled vacancies taking too long to fill, without sacrificing the priority given to internal candidates.

Disciplinary Records

This tentative agreement provides some important protection for members and a change that was important to the management team.

  • The personnel file will be split into two portions: (1) the active file and (2) the archive file.
  • NEW! Only Human Resources staff will have access to the archive file; supervisors and other OHSU personnel will NOT have access except in the case of an employee being considered for discharge for cause.
  • Upon request by the employee, any written discipline will be removed from the active file after two years and placed in the archive file, except for written reprimands or higher for theft, willful misrepresentation, conduct threatening or endangering the safety of others, discrimination or assault/violence. (These exceptions are the same as in the current contract.)
  • Even if the employee does not request removal of it, disciplinary information older than two years may not be used in progressive discipline except for discharge.
  • NEW! Disciplinary records moved to the archive file are not available to supervisors or managers for discipline, promotion, lateral transfer or voluntary demotion.

This maintains protection for employees who have been disciplined in the past and have improved their performance.

Filling of Vacancies

This tentative agreement includes changes that will speed up the process of hiring regular employees and filling training positions, but retains current contract protections giving internal candidates priority. The agreement includes:

  • The job-bid trial-service period has been eliminated.
  • Internal job openings will be either posted in the work unit OR emailed to all eligible bargaining-unit employees in a work unit.
  • It will be made clear that the training-position qualifications in the contract are minimum qualifications and that managers may set additional qualifications.
  • Internal applicants will be considered first for training positions.
  • OHSU will be allowed to simultaneously post a vacancy and recruit and interview both internal and external applicants, BUT the contract language will continue to state that external candidates may be hired only if there are no well-qualified internal candidates.

The effect of this agreement will be to allow vacancies to be filled more quickly (hopefully relieving some of our members’ concerns re: workload due to positions being unfilled for extended periods) while maintaining the preference and priority for internal candidates.

Understanding Market-Based Wages and the Contract

One of the more nuanced discussions we will have at the bargaining table involves the union’s market-based wage proposal, OHSU’s stated intention of having wages driven by the market and the consequences of OHSU’s UPP proposal on both of these issues.

First, some history. In the past, OHSU and Local 328 negotiated an annual across-the-board pay increase (often called the cost-of-living adjustment or COLA) as well as salary increases for some specific classifications, which were called “selectives.” The selectives were chosen because both sides believed the pay for those classifications needed to be increased to be competitive with other organizations — better pay would help recruit and retain employees in those classifications.

About 10 years ago, the parties bargained new contract language that did away with the selectives process and substituted an annual labor-management committee review process. The contract language and the committee process have evolved over the years. If you are interested in the current contract language, read Article 8.4  Market-Based Adjustments (the contract can be found here).

In the past, the committee adjusted the OHSU pay range up by 5% when compared to the market. It did this because, at the time, AFSCME employees’ retirement plans were fully paid by OHSU and were a much better deal than competing employers. (This is no longer the case.) Once that adjustment was made, the committee compared the midpoint of the adjusted OHSU wage to the midpoint of the market. If the difference between the adjusted OHSU pay and the market pay over multiple years was more than 5%, or if it was more than 10% in a single year, the committee recommended adjusting the OHSU pay range to bring it to within a less than 5% difference from the market. There are nuances within these rules, but that is the basic structure. Under this structure, it is possible for wages to go down as well as up in response to the market.

This brings us to the current bargaining situation.

OHSU wants to follow the market in wages, thinking that it can make cuts to PERS and proposed cuts to UPP retirement contributions, but still attract world-class workers due to OHSU’s mission and decent benefits. Management has proposed doing away with the 6% employer-paid UPP contribution and has been clear about its intention to do away with the 3% transition subsidy for PERS employees. OHSU proposed giving a 6% raise to UPP employees in order to offset the decreased retirement contribution, but has not proposed anything equivalent for PERS employees.

At the same time, management is also proposing moving all pay ranges upward by 5% and that the market-based wage committee no longer adjust OHSU wages up by 5% when comparing them to the market. This will have several effects:

  • Only people very near the beginning of the pay range would get a raise; employees with more than two years in a classification would see no increase.
  • Under OHSU’s pay-progression proposal, which extends the time to reach the top step from 10 to 17 years, an employee’s eligibility for the longevity step would be delayed by at least five years. It is worth noting here that the union’s research does not support OHSU’s assertion that 17 or 21 years to reach the top step is an “industry standard” for non-nurses in comparable facilities.
  • Moving the pay range up by 5% without actually giving anyone a raise except new hires and very junior employees would actually make OHSU look like a more lucrative employer to prospective employees, even though pay for senior employees wouldn’t actually change at all, the 6% retirement contribution would be gone (new employees don’t get the benefit of the 6% offset raise) and it would take seven years longer or more to reach the top step of the pay range.

The union has not yet responded to OHSU’s economic proposals, but we can look at the union’s initial proposals and find one that directly impacts market-based wages to the employees’ benefit.

The union has proposed that the market-based wage committee compare the midpoint of the OHSU salary range to the 66th percentile of the market rather than the midpoint — this will make OHSU a market leader in compensation and be in line with its aspirations to be a world-class institution capable of attracting and retaining world-class employees. OHSU employees, new and current, would then be assured that they are market leaders rather than be attracted by a better-looking pay scale watered down with depleted retirement benefits and a grossly extended period of progression increases.

5/7 Bargaining Session – Breaks, FTE Increases, Disciplinary Records

Breaks/Lunch and Working off the Clock

This session, we completed work on the breaks/lunch and working-off-the-clock issues that we began last week. Please read last week’s report for a summary of that work. We ended last Thursday at a midpoint in the brainstorming session, and then moved on to considering global solutions. (In keeping with our ground rules, we don’t report brainstorming ideas.) Today the teams were able to agree on a global solution to help address the problems that employees experience in this area. The following agreements are to be placed in a letter of agreement attached to the contract.

  • OHSU and AFSCME will draft and issue a joint statement addressing employees’ right to take and management’s obligation to provide meal and rest periods, the legal prohibitions against working off the clock and restraints on working at home/away from workplace during one’s time off (including vacations). This communication will stress the responsibility and the right of employees to report violations without fear of retaliation. OHSU will issue a reminder communication every 12 months.
  • Employees have the right and would be encouraged to report issues in these areas to their supervisor and to Human Resources personnel. If the problem not resolved, it may be referred to an HR/AFSCME leadership group.
  • OHSU will specifically identify break rooms available to employees, and will then post these locations on O2. This resource will also be made known to new hires.  Any immediate concerns can be addressed by HR/AFSCME group.
  • If employees work in an area without a suitable break room and a nearby conference room is not otherwise scheduled, employees may use it for meal breaks (with appropriate clean-up).
  • Upon an employee’s request, the employer will provide him or her with scheduled breaks.
  • The union and OHSU will create a task force to look into physical space for breaks. This will be paid time for any AFSCME members participating on the task force. A good-faith effort will be made to implement the task force’s recommendations.
  • The Career and Workplace Enhancement Center will develop a training designed to improve workload and workflow and processes. Workload and workflow issues frequently lead to problems such as stress, individual performance issues and pressure to work off the clock, either by missing break or lunch or by staying after their shift to complete necessary work. This class will teach employees and managers how to make necessary changes in workflow. If the work group’s solutions after this are not implemented, the issue will be referred to the HR/AFSCME leadership group.

This agreement could go a long way toward alleviating the problems employees experience with getting their breaks and lunch and feeling pressure to work off the clock to finish work or provide patient care. However, it will require employees to report when they face these difficult situations. Part of the work of the task force will be to provide employees with guidance about how and where to report concern and to protect them from retaliation.

FTE Increases

The next issue dealt with by the teams was the problem faced by part-time workers are unexpectedly required to increase their FTE. FTE increases are not always welcome because many part-time workers are part time by choice. Currently, the contract provides protections for employees who have their FTE reduced, but no similar protections exist for employees who are having their FTE increased.

The stories and interests shared by the teams emphasized the hardship faced by part-time workers who are thrust into working more hours than they planned for when they took the job, versus the need for OHSU to be able to meet the business needs with the amount of employees/hours they need to get the work done. We’re pleased that the teams reached an agreement on this issue as well:

If a part-time worker is required to increase his/her FTE by 0.2 FTE (eight hours/week) or more, this shall be the process:

  1. The employee is advised of the need for an FTE increase and is given the opportunity to accept the increase or not.
  2. If the employee doesn’t accept the change, the employer will make a good-faith effort to find alternatives that might meet the needs of both parties, including but not limited to hiring an additional part-time worker, reorganizing the work, looking for volunteers and considering job sharing.
  3. If, after working through (2), no solution other than an FTE increase is practical, the employee shall have the opportunity to accept the increase, look for another position using the contractual benefit of being an internal candidate or go onto the preferred hire list. The PHL will give the employee preference in filling a vacancy for which he/she is qualified and that better meets his/her needs.

Maintenance of Disciplinary Records

This was an issue raised by management. Their story was about the frustration that managers experience when employees who have temporarily improved their performance regress as soon as the two-year period for the removal of previous disciplinary records has passed. The management team expressed concern that removing records created additional liability if an employee who had been previously disciplined causes a problem with a patient or the public and no record of discipline had been retained. They did note that this is not a frequent problem, but when it occurs is it viewed as a serious one. The union team expressed that AFSCME has no interest in protecting “bad” employees, but the union does have an interest that discipline be fair and consistent and that employees who have truly “righted the ship” are not followed forever by a past mistake. We got as far as brainstorming before the session came to a close and we will resume work on it at next week’s session.

As always, your comments here on our blog or on our Facebook page are encouraged and appreciated.

What Does OHSU’s Pay Progression Proposal Mean For You?

Proposed Changes to the Pay Schedule

How would you feel if OHSU wanted to pay you $13,000 less than you currently make?  If their contract proposals were to go into effect then you would experience a serious hit to your income.  How much you would lose would depend on your current pay range and what quartile you are in, but make no mistake, it would be a loss. How would this happen?

During contract bargaining, OHSU management has proposed to reduce the annual pay increase that employees get on their anniversary.  Currently, if an employee’s pay rate falls within the first quartile, their anniversary increase is 4.25%.  Once an employee moves into the second quartile, the increase is 3.0%; in the third quartile it is 2.75% and in the fourth it is 2.5%.  Typically, employees who start at the very bottom of the pay range make it to the top in their eleventh year.

Management has proposed that the annual percentage increases be reduced so that employees move to the top more slowly.  Under OHSU’s proposal it would take 17 years to get to the top of the pay range rather than 11.

Below is an example of how a pay rate would be affected by the change, using the current pay range for a PAS Coordinator 1 (grade A28):

Current Plan Proposed Plan Annual Diff.*
Year 1 wage 18.30 18.30 0.00
Year 2 wage 19.08 19.03 (104.00)
Year 3 wage 19.89 19.79 (208.00)
Year 4 wage 20.49 20.58 187.20
Year 5 wage 21.10 21.15 104.00
Year 6 wage 21.73 21.73 0.00
Year 7 wage 22.33 22.06 (561.60)
Year 8 wage 22.94 22.39 (1,144.00)
Year 9 wage 23.57 22.73 (1,747.20)
Year 10 wage 24.15 23.08 (2,225.60)
Year 11 wage 24.52** 23.31 (2,516.80)
Year 12 wage 24.52 23.54 (2,038.40)
Year 13 wage 24.52 23.78 (1,539.20)
Year 14 wage 24.52 24.02 (1,040.00)
Year 15 wage 24.52 24.26 (540.80)
Year 16 wage 24.52 24.50 (41.60)
Year 17 wage 24.52 24.52 0.00

*Based on a work year of 2,080 hours

**Range maximum

Notice that by year 6 you would more or less break even, but in year 7 your wages would begin a sharp decline and would not recover for another 10 years. All told, over the 10-year period you would make $13,000 less under the change that OHSU proposes.

Keep in mind that not only would your pay be reduced, so would OHSU’s contribution to your retirement plan; the less you make, the less they contribute.  In addition, instead of being eligible for the longevity increase in your 16th year of employment, you would not hit that milestone until your 22nd year.

OHSU’s proposed changes to compensation will clearly reduce your earning potential.  Their justifications for such a wallop to your wallet? First, that current labor costs are unsustainable. Second, that they want to be more in line with what other hospitals are paying their employees.

Regarding sustainability, OHSU has provided no objective, independent analysis that its labor costs are a problem.  It seems that when times are bad, employees are asked to share the pain, but when things are going well, there is no share in the gain. In fact, regardless of whether OHSU is riding high or scraping by, the message remains the same: employees need to take cuts.

As far as achieving parity with the compensation at other hospitals, it appears that OHSU wants to be a leader in all ways except in how their employees are compensated.  Rather than lead the way, OHSU wants to be in the middle of the pack.  In essence, they are saying that you are not worth what they are paying you.  Does that make you feel that your effort is valued?