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

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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?

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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?

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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.

Union Dues

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There have been several questions lately about our Union dues and what they are used for.

On our web site, for general reference, you will find two documents. One is a two-page document containing a pie chart of the general distribution of dues money and a list of the differences between paying union dues and being a fair-share fee payer. The second document is a pie chart showing a breakdown of dues for a person earning $4,185 per month, which is close to an average wage for an AFSCME member in Oregon. OHSU employees average a bit more than that, but the chart will give you a good idea.

We are often asked “What do I get for my dues?” It’s a fair question.

In addition to paying staff salaries and supplying office space and all the infrastructure that goes with maintaining a state and national organization, you get direct economic benefits.

It’s a well-researched fact that union members, on average, earn significantly more than non-union members. But let’s break it down even closer to home than that.

All we have to do is look at proposals OHSU made in bargaining this year and during the last contract to see the economic benefit of having a union.

This year, OHSU has proposed extending the time to reach the top step in the pay range from 10 years to 17 years. If they succeed in that, it will cost the average OHSU employee about $13,000 in lost wages. If we fight that off and succeed in maintaining the 10-year top-out, that will save the average worker $13,000, and over that period of time she or he will pay about $4,000 in union dues. That’s $9,000 dollars extra in your pocket that you would not have if no one was here to tell OHSU “no.”

Let’s look at another case. This one won’t make you happy, but let’s look at it anyway. Last bargaining, OHSU proposed cutting the PERS 6% pickup. Without a union, they would have just done it, and been done with it. We were able to bargain a one-year delay in implementation and an 18-month 5% subsidy followed by a 6-month 3% subsidy. Those subsidies put about $7,800 dollars in each PERS employee’s pocket that they would not have received without a union. During that time, those employees would have paid about $1,700 in union dues. That’s about $6,100 dollars that the average PERS employee gained by having a union.

Multiply this by all the nickel-and-diming OHSU would get away with year after year and the big take-backs on health insurance and other benefits that are waiting in the wings when no one is here to stop them.

Your 50 bucks a month in union dues is the best investment you have.

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

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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

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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

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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?

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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?

4/30 Bargaining Session — Comp Time, Break Rooms, Working off the Clock

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The pressure to make progress in bargaining is beginning to be felt by both teams. The clock is winding toward summer and a long list of IBB issues as well as financial proposals still need to be dealt with and responded to.

Today the teams tackled the issue of comp-time accruals, an issue that management brought forward. The union brought forward issues around working off the clock, taking lunch and breaks and access to break rooms. Originally the union had expressed these as separate issues, but, through caucus discussions and in the joint session, it became apparent that it made sense to bargain on them together.

We worked on the comp-time issue first. Following the current contract, under most circumstances an employee may request that overtime worked be converted to comp time, but the supervisor must agree; the exception is when an employee works mandatory overtime — then it is the employee’s option whether to take the compensation in cash or as comp time.

The other circumstance when an employee may accrue comp time is related to on-call employees. On-call employees are paid one hour’s worth of pay for every six hours they spend on call; currently, employees may elect to have that time recorded as comp time.

During initial discussion, OHSU identified comp-time accruals as a concern; some of the examples raised were that some departments have to pay overtime to cover employees who take comp time off and that departments with many high-seniority employees already have a hard time granting enough vacation without adding comp time to the mix. Another concern was that employees who earn comp time take it before they take vacation time, so they in effect have a rotating bank of comp time while building up large vacation balances. A final concern expressed by management was that different areas of OHSU have different staffing problems and constraints, so a one-size-fits-all approach to allowing employees to elect whether or not to record comp time is problematic. The union expressed concern that most of these problems were the result of understaffing and noted that management has available all the tools they need to reduce the use of overtime and the accrual of comp time. Further, the union team felt that the ability for employees to choose whether or not to take pay or comp time was important to quality of work life.

The teams ultimately reached a tentative agreement. Most of the current contract language having to do with comp time will remain unchanged; however two changes were made that have to do with overtime earned in relation to on-call status:

  • First, if on-call is scheduled 84 days or more (three 28-day scheduling periods) in advance, an employee may request that their on-call pay be converted to comp time, but management must approve. If the on-call time is scheduled with less than 84 days’ notice, the choice whether to record the on-call time as comp time is solely the employee’s choice. The result here is that management has an incentive for scheduling on-call well in advance, thus minimizing inconvenience to employees; if management fails to do so, then the employees still get the choice.
  • Second (this is a gain for employees), when an employee is called in to work from on-call status, the employee can designate the premium portion of his or her call-in pay to be recorded as comp time, something employees were previously unable to do.

The second discussion today focused on lunch and breaks, break-room access and working off the clock. As you can imagine, these issues generated a lot of stories about employees who do not get breaks and lunches, employees who work through breaks and lunches and employees who are told to not record a “missed lunch” or “missed break” even though they have not had either. We were told by the union bargaining-team members about inadequate or inaccessible break rooms, performance standards that can only be met by working off the clock and employees who clock out and then complete essential tasks because they don’t want to be disciplined for unauthorized overtime. We heard about employees who feel they have to answer email on weekends or while on vacation just to keep up and about supervisors who have unrealistic productivity expectations because standards are being set by employees doing unpaid work.

Both teams expressed interests around these stories — legal compliance, the physical and emotional safety of employees, providing good patient care, highly engaged employees, effective scheduling and good morale, for example. The list of interests was long and, for the most part, overlapping. While it may turn out that the teams will have differences over how prevalent these problems are and over how to solve them, it seems that both the union team and the OHSU team recognize that to the extent these conditions exist, they need to be resolved. The teams began brainstorming potential solutions and continued that process until running out of time in today’s session.

We will continue brainstorming next week and hope to arrive at a creative and successful solution. Upcoming issues to be worked on are the filling of vacancies, the impact of making employees work outside of their regular work units and the standards and process for increasing established FTEs. As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

4/23 Bargaining Session — Vacation & Holiday Scheduling

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In what may have been the most difficult day of bargaining so far, AFSCME Local 328 and OHSU management came to an agreement on a method for an updated system for vacation scheduling and granting time off on recognized holidays. Many employees have brought up the fact that less senior employees in 24/7 work units often have to work most (or all) holidays in a year and do not have access to the more desirable vacation times. Both sides raised a number of interests relating to the issue, including attraction/retention of skilled employees in hard-to-fill jobs, retention of more senior employees, strong team cohesion, positive morale, use of the consensus-agreement process (Article 11.4 of the contract) and recognizing the sacrifice made by more senior employees when they were new employees and had to work holidays and had last choice of vacation times.

After a great deal of debate, a tentative agreement was reached. The terms include:

•    Holiday scheduling will be integrated into Article 12.4.3 – Submission and Granting of Vacation Requests.
•    Vacation requests for a block of time that includes a holiday are deemed to include the holiday.
•    No more than three recognized holidays may be included in an employee’s first-round vacation request.
•    Once every five years, in the first round of vacation requests, an employee may request a block of time off of up to six weeks. This block of time will be granted on a rotating basis, starting with the most senior employee.
•    Holiday pay under Article 11.3 – Work on a Holiday will be based on time worked during the calendar day (midnight to midnight) of a recognized holiday.
•    In Pharmacy, if a consensus agreement on holiday scheduling cannot be reached, selected union members and managers of the work unit, Human Resources and Local 328 staff will negotiate a letter of agreement that must be voted on and ratified by the membership in Pharmacy.

With issues involving seniority, there is no solution that will make everyone happy; balancing the interests of the less senior employees and the more senior employees is very difficult, but we believe the agreement fixes a number of problems that have been around for a long time:

•    The inconsistency and complexity of bidding for vacations and holidays separately has been eliminated.
•    Holidays that occur within an approved vacation period don’t need to be separately approved.
•    The lack of opportunity to take vacation blocks of up to six weeks (one of our membership’s high priorities in our bargaining surveys) has been resolved.

Next week’s agenda for interest-based bargaining includes comp-time conversion, the impact of employees working off the clock and filling of vacancies. As with the matter of holidays and vacation, the parties will probably have to work through some major obstacles in order to come to agreement, but the interest-based process has been working well and the union is hopeful that we can continue the progress we have made thus far.

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