After six difficult days of mediation, the AFSCME Local 328 bargaining team is happy to announce a successful resolution to all outstanding issues! We were able to secure good across-the-board wage increases (a total of 7.5 percent over three years), a 1 percent bonus for all employees, no cuts to health-insurance contributions, no unilateral move of hourly employees to salaried-exempt status and a reasonable transition plan for PERS employees that will carry them through the term of this contract. Within the next few days, we will provide a summary of all the tentative agreements reached during more than five months of bargaining and mediation (this information can also be found in previous bargaining updates). In the meantime, below is a summary of the resolution of the critical economic issues that had remained on the table:
- No reduction in health-insurance contributions.
- A 10 percent cap on health-insurance contributions in the event of premium increases. (Our premiums have increased an average of 2 percent over the last three years, and we are confident that this cap will not be a problem during the contract.)
- No unilateral moves of any hourly employees to salaried-exempt status — there will be provisions for voluntary moves to salaried status, and vacancies can be filled with salaried employees.
Annual Across-the-Board Wage Increases:
- July 2012: 2.5%
- July 2013 1.5%
- January 2014: 1.0%
- July 2014 2.5%
- July 2014: A 1 percent lump-sum bonus payable to all bargaining-unit members who were employed at OHSU at the time of ratification and are still employed at OHSU in July 2014.
- Night-shift differentials for Medical Laboratory Technologists, Medical Laboratory Technicians II, Respiratory Care Practitioners, Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacists will decrease by 1.5% each year of the contract.
- Weekend day-shift differentials for Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacists will decrease by 1.5% each year of the contract.
Retirement Contributions/PERS Transition:
- No changes until January 2014 — at that time PERS employees will begin paying the 6 percent pick-up.
- Vested PERS employees:
- January 2014: A 5 percent PERS differential.
- July 2014: The PERS differential is reduced to 3 percent.
- Non-vested PERS employees:
- January 2014: A 6 percent PERS differential.
- July 2014: The PERS differential is reduced to 4 percent.
- If non-vested PERS employees hired in 2010, 2011 or 2012 switch to UPP, OHSU will match their IAP contribution and pay it into UPP.
We will be holding information meetings next week to review this information and answer members’ questions. Please join us at one of these sessions:
- Monday, August 20, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Sam Jackson Hall rm. 2306
- Monday, August 20, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., BICC rm. 124
- Tuesday, August 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Market Square Bldg. rm. 1009
- Tuesday, August 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., UHS rm. 8B60
Below is a summary of the last few days’ events:
Friday, August 10. When we ended mediation this day, at about 9:30 p.m., the bargaining teams were far apart on key issues. The employer had proposed a 5 percent cut in health-insurance premiums and a 5 percent cap on premium growth; the union felt that we already had a fair and sustainable health-insurance program. The employer was committed to across-the-board annual wage increases of less than 2 percent, the union to increases of more than 3 percent. The teams’ positions on the hourly-to-salaried moves were also polarized. While the teams had made good progress on a template of wages and benefits for salaried employees (many that would also benefit union employees who are already salaried), we were stuck on how the transition would take place — the employer wanted a unilateral move, the union only voluntary moves. There were also other issues (use of vacation time in overtime calculations, changes in shift differentials) on which the teams seemed far apart.
But the elephant in the room was the employer’s proposal around the PERS employee pick-up. When first rolled out by OHSU, the changes were presented to the OHSU community as a done deal. The employer argued that its PERS costs were unsustainable; the union argued that not only did the employer have buckets of money, the change it had proposed would not fix the PERS problem. OHSU had offered a transition plan to give PERS enrollees a softer landing on their way to a 6 percent pay cut, but these employees would still end up paying the full 6 percent by the end of the contract. This plan was unacceptable to the union, and further compromise seemed out of the question. The union bargaining team ended the day at about 9:30 p.m., feeling fairly discouraged and unheard.
Monday, August 13. When the mediator brought the teams back together, face to face, both sides were tense. Impasse loomed; bargaining seemed stalled. The union team spoke first, speaking of the severe economic consequences that OHSU’s proposals would have on our members. We spoke of the success of our partnership on health care and how shocking it was to see take-aways proposed in this area. This exchange of views continued for about an hour. The OHSU team listened, and asked a few questions, but did not spend a lot of time fleshing out their case. We broke for lunch at 12 noon. After lunch, the union team began the tedious work of wrapping the seemingly endless paragraphs of proposals regarding the hourly-to-salaried move into one grand final package to send to the employer. While we were engaged in this work, the mediator came to the room to let us know that the OHSU team wanted to present a package proposal to us. The union team had no idea what to expect, since we hadn’t felt, at least until that day, that our employees’ concerns had been heard.
When we reviewed the proposal, we were surprised to see that the employer had made significant movement — in a way that signaled OHSU was ready to make a deal. OHSU had dropped the health-insurance cuts and raised the premium cap to 10 percent. They had also dropped their proposal to change the way vacation time would be counted toward the overtime threshold. They increased their wage proposal to 1.50 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.25 percent over three years. In addition, they had sweetened that PERS transition plan; the new plan still left employees paying the entire 6 percent at the end of three years, but it represented positive movement.
The union team got work with a response. Sometimes, one of keys to getting a good deal is to reframe the way you think about things. We wanted to get our PERS employees a permanent differential to offset the loss of the 6 percent employee pick-up; the employer’s team still wanted a transition where employees would pay in full. We realized that getting hung up on the word “permanent” would get in the way of a deal — when you bargain a contract, there is no such thing as permanent. No matter what you agree to, it is only guaranteed for the length of the contract. With that in mind, the union team wrote a proposal for a PERS differential to make our members nearly whole for the length of the contract. Since there is, in fact, a PERS funding problem, and since PERS is, in fact, a richer benefit for most of our members than UPP is and since there is an alternate plan for our PERS members to choose, we believed that some cost-sharing was necessary. We combined our PERS proposal with a revised wage proposal and a counter-proposal on OHSU’s proposed cuts to differentials. We presented this to the employer’s team along with our hourly-to-salaried proposal (which preserved the employees’ right to choose to move to salaried status).
By 6:30 p.m. we were eating subs for dinner and optimistically waiting for management’s response. At 7:10 p.m., management informed the union team that they needed more time to review our proposal and wanted to adjourn until our next scheduled mediation session. This was quite surprising to the union bargaining team, as we thought we had achieved significant momentum and that a fair deal (and an end to bargaining!) was in sight. Our fear was that a break in the process would allow management to retrench and circle the wagons around one or two positions that were unacceptable to the union team. As it turned out, that is exactly what happened.
Wednesday, August 15. This morning, the management team returned with a wage proposal that was very close to the union’s last proposal — good news. The management team did not accept the union’s PERS-subsidy proposal (we had called for a flat 5 percent for the term of the contract) — they wanted a decreasing percentage over the life of the contract. The other sticking point was no surprise either. OHSU made several significant moves on the compensation piece of the hourly-to-salaried proposals, which meant that any employees moving to salaried (and any employees already on salaried status) would have a much better deal than they would have had at the beginning of the process. Unfortunately the employer tied these pay improvements to a unilateral move of all affected employees to salaried status. They further stated, to make their point abundantly clear, that this compensation package would not be available if the union insisted on a member vote to go to salaried status.
After receiving the employer’s proposal, the union team decided to make a counter-offer maintaining our previous proposal on PERS, accepting the employer’s wage proposal and maintaining our position on members voting to go salaried (even if it meant abandoning the salaried compensation package). We delivered this package proposal to management at 2:30 p.m.
At about 3:30 p.m. the mediator asked to meet with a subgroup of the bargaining team. She told us that the employer’s team was very resistant to not having a “step-down” in the PERS differential at some point during the contract — this was the major sticking point to reaching an agreement. OHSU saw a huge symbolic value to having a downward trend in the PERS differential. The union responded that we saw an equally large symbolic value to having a stable differential and starting the next contract in a viable position to negotiate for our PERS enrollees. Following this discussion, the mediator met again with the management team, who decided they would need more time.
Following our dinner break, the smaller subgroups met again, at which time the management team floated an informal proposal concept. The union bargaining team began its review of this information at about 7:30 p.m. At about 8:45 p.m., we decided that the offer presented by management represented a significant move by OHSU. It contained across-the-board wage increases of 7.5 percent over the course of the agreement, plus a 1 percent bonus in July 2014. The proposal contained no health-insurance cuts, and no changes to overtime calculation. The proposal did include a transition for PERS employees, paying part of their pick-up. Resolving the PERS issue was, no doubt, the most difficult part of bargaining, as well as the element of the agreement the employer was most committed to. In the end, the union was able to bargain a significant PERS-transition differential that will span the life of the contract — and the union will have the opportunity to try to continue or improve the PERS differential in the next contract. Our agreement was reached at around 10:30 p.m.