By Matt Hilton
Greetings Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME local 328,
We’d like to thank all of our members who submitted questions, and either attended or streamed our bargaining panel presentation.
As a friendly reminder, nominations for the bargaining team will open July 2nd and close August 6th. The election will be held August 25th thru the 29th. Please visit www.afscmelocal328.org during the applicable time periods for more information about how to nominate someone or to vote.
While we’re on the subject of bargaining, there was a topic that we wanted to discuss with our membership to determine if we should incorporate it into our bargaining strategy or not.
On the scientific survey we launched prior to our last negotiations, we asked our members how they would feel about changing our vacation and sick leave contract language into one “paid time off” (PTO) bank where employees could use any accrued leave to take time off for sick or vacation time.
Conceptually, this idea had the support of about half of our membership. The overall level of support wasn’t a mandate, but it was worth exploring.
During the course of 2012 bargaining, it became clear to our team that if we were going to advance the idea of PTO, we would need more data. How would our members feel about specific models? What if the accrual rates changed? What if OHSU insisted on barriers before you could use your PTO?
Innovative change can be a great thing, but opening up a contract article and putting out a half baked idea can be disastrous if it’s not thought through.
As we looked at our PTO options, there were also some very significant issues OHUS had placed on the bargaining table that had to be dealt with, including attempting to forcecertain employees from hourly to salaried, unprecedented changes to pension contributions, and take backs on health care contributions.
After some extended discussion, the bargaining team acknowledged that they didn’t have the data they needed and voted to table any PTO discussion until the next negotiations. This way we could better allocate our resources to fight the urgent issues and better research and communicate with our members about PTO.
We started researching other union contracts that had contract language dealing with PTO banks. If you compared the amount of combined sick and vacation leave available to local 328 members against the PTO amounts for other locals, our contract was clearly more favorable the vast majority of the time.
If you go back far enough, OHSU and AFSCME at one point had an agreement about PTO.
Looking at our 1996 contract, a system was in place where represented employees had a PTO bank to draw from. While the accrual rate was higher than the vacation accrual rate is now, there also was a separate sick leave bank that accrued at half the rate it does now.
Employees were able to use PTO for vacation or sick leave. However if an employee wanted to access their sick leave when they were sick, under normal circumstances, they were required to either use 16 hours of PTO or take the time unpaid (if they had exhausted their PTO bank) prior to doing so.
When the language was being negotiated, OHSU was adamant that they would not agree to a PTO system that did not have barriers to accessing the sick leave.
Instead of it being a great new flexible system, the people who used little sick leave liked it and those that used a moderate to large amount of sick leave universally disliked it..
Employees who were chronically sick would burn thru their PTO and then face a financial hardship if they had an extended illness.
Even healthy employees were frustrated because even though they had sick time accrued, they had to use time that could have been used for vacation to cover a minor illness.
Department schedulers didn’t like it because employees had more time to request off and would also spend more time off for an illness so that they could access their sick leave.
The PTO system was removed in the subsequent contract and replaced with the system that we have today.
Looking ahead to negotiations in 2015, it is almost guaranteed that OHSU will not agree to a PTO system that has no restrictions on sick leave access and doesn’t reduce the current accrual rates. If the union was to insist on such a proposal, it is very unlikely a strong majority of our membership would be willing to strike over it.
We further believe that a strong majority of our membership would not trade the current system for a PTO system that resulted in lower accrual rates overall.
As we’re laying the ground work for our 2015 bargaining strategy, we wanted to honor the commitment made by the 2012 bargaining team to examine PTO and discuss the pragmatic realities with our membership.
What do you think?
Is the issue a non starter and shouldn’t have more resources dedicated to exploring it?
Would you be willing to trade off the current system for a PTO model if it meant you’d have less time overall?
Is there something we’ve missed?
You can look at the various models we’ve researched here (link). Are you aware of a different model that you think we should consider?
As a member driven organization, we very much value your feedback!
President, AFSCME local 328