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.