Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bargaining update #3

The NFA-CSN and CSN Administration teams met for the fourth and fifth bargaining sessions, on 12/6 and 12/12. At those sessions, NFA introduced new proposals, while CSN Administration adopted the line that they would only negotiate on mandatory subjects.

At the 12/6 session, the NFA-CSN team had been expecting responses on several items. However, CSN Administration returned to the table saying that they had decided against negotiating on any subjects not specified in Section 13 of NSHE Code Title 4, Chapter 4, which lists mandatory subjects of bargaining.

An aside-- in labor law, certain topics of bargaining are delineated as mandatory. This designation means that if one party raises the subject, the other is obligated to negotiate on it. In our case Section 13 may state that “mandatory” topics of bargaining are “limited” to those listed; such language does not mean, however, that negotiations are limited to just these topics. Subjects that are not unlawful, called “permissive,” may be raised by either party and negotiated. It is usual for collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) to include many permissive items.

The NFA-CSN team asked if CSN Administration were refusing point blank to consider any permissive topic, without hearing any proposals. CSN Administration took a break to caucus, and returned to the table saying that they weren't, but that they preferred to leave permissive items until after the mandatory subjects had been settled. However, at the next session, they modified their response, stating categorically that if a topic was in Section 13 they would negotiate it, and if not, they would not. They said that this had been their clear position for the last two weeks.

The NFA-CSN team is disheartened by CSN Administration's blanket refusal to consider any permissive subject. Through communication with faculty, we have identified many areas where improvements for faculty, students, and/or the institution could be achieved through straightforward measures in the CBA. In refusing to consider any such items that are permissive rather than mandatory, CSN Administration is not demonstrating respect for faculty voice or commitment to a collaborative bargaining process resulting in a good contract.

NFA-CSN will continue to raise items, permissive or mandatory, that we believe and that faculty have told us will be beneficial for faculty, students, and/or CSN. We urge CSN Administration to change their position on considering permissive topics.

At the two sessions, the NFA-CSN team introduced proposals and received responses on the following topics:

(12/6) NFA counter-proposal on Non-Discrimination: At the 11/28 session, CSN Administration had rejected NFA's Non-Discrimination proposal and verbally counter-proposed that Non-Discrimination in the CBA only cover discrimination based on NFA participation, and not include categories such as race, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. We brought a counter-proposal that incorporated Administration's suggested revisions on certain aspects of the language in a couple of sections, while continuing to insist on protection against discrimination based on race, sex etc.

Despite the fact that the College has issued various statements about their commitment to inclusiveness and non-discrimination, President Richards' recent email being the latest example, the CSN Administration team again rejected NFA's proposal. On 12/12, they brought a written counter-proposal expressing again what their verbal counter of 11/28 had-- that they wanted Non-Discrimination to only cover discrimination based on “participation or non-participation in NFA.”

NFA-CSN continues to believe in the importance of a strong Non-Discrimination article in the CBA. Non-Discrimination articles prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex etc. are common in academic CBAs, and there is no good reason why CSN, one of the most diverse community colleges in the country in terms of faculty, staff, and students, should not have one.

(12/6) NFA proposal on Faculty Offices: NFA introduced a two sentence proposal on faculty offices, reading in its entirety: “CSN administration shall provide one functionally equipped faculty office per bargaining unit faculty member. The faculty member has the right for this office to be located on the campus at which the faculty member performs the majority of his/her in-person instruction.”

Given the importance to student success of having an instructor's office on the same campus as class location, we had thought this minimalist proposal could be easily accepted. However to our surprise on 12/12 CSN Administration rejected the proposal and indicated they would not negotiate on the topic, asserting that it is permissive rather than mandatory.

(12/6) NFA proposal on Distribution of the Agreement: NFA introduced a short proposal regarding posting the CBA on the CSN website, having Deans announce the CBA once completed, and informing new hires of NFA and the CBA. We did not ask that any paper copies be produced; only that the information be made available electronically. On 12/12 CSN Administration presented a counter-proposal agreeing to parts of NFA's proposal, but as they see it as a permissive topic, they indicated that their counter-proposal was not to be part of the CBA but rather was a declaration of intention on their part, that could be attached to the CBA but not included in it.

We do believe that this item should be included in the CBA. Setting aside the issue of inclusion in the CBA, NFA is pleased that Administration has issued a reasonable counter on this item.

(12/6) NFA proposal on Academic Freedom: NFA proposed essentially the existing school Academic Freedom policy, plus a section on Academic responsibility. Academic Freedom is a core value of AAUP, and for a hundred years we have fought to establish and uphold the concept. The current CSN policy is solid and references AAUP's Statement on the subject, so we used it for our proposal. However, on 12/12 Administration rejected our proposal and indicated no interest in continued discussion, stating that it is a permissive rather than mandatory subject of bargaining.

(12/6) Administration response on Saving Clause: Administration accepted the NFA proposal on Saving Clause, which was standard language stating that the legal invalidation of some part of the contract does not invalidate other parts of the contract.

(12/12) NFA proposal on Shared Governance: Shared Governance is another core value of AAUP. The NFA-CSN team spent much time developing a strong proposal on Shared Governance, of which the team is proud, addressing many aspects of faculty involvement in governance, from the department level through the college level, and including Faculty Senate and NFA.

The proposal calls for a study of shared governance at CSN, the development of department-level shared governance protocols, an increase in release time for Faculty Senate and the establishment of release time for NFA, strengthening Faculty Senate by making duly adopted policies emanating from Faculty Senate and signed by the President binding, a guarantee that faculty have the opportunity to participate in shared governance if they wish, and various other items that will promote a strong culture of shared governance at CSN.

We see an opportunity here to give a powerful positive impulse to shared governance at CSN. We hope that the Administration gives our proposal careful consideration.

(12/12) NFA Proposal on Safety: proposes language on safety similar to that found in other academic CBAs. Among other things, it would require that safety concerns submitted by faculty in writing to the appropriate administrator be provided written response, enable faculty to request accommodation or temporary reassignment in the case of clear danger, and give faculty the right to take reasonable decisions to ensure their own and students' safety in emergency situations.

(12/12) NFA Proposal on Successorship: proposes that the bargaining unit shall remain intact and the contract in place should NSHE or CSN merge or reorganize the College, and provides protections in the case of outsourcing.

(12/12) Administration response on Faculty Handbook and Policies and Procedures Manual: Administration rejected NFA's proposal and indicated no interest in countering or continuing discussion. They said they intended to update the Faculty and Staff Information Handbook, but did not want any commitment to do so in the CBA.

NFA's proposal contained several aspects, including that faculty should be consulted in the development of the Information Handbook (it is intended as a resource for faculty after all), and that a policy archive be created and stored in the CSN library. Administration did not reply on these aspects; we continue to see value in them.

(12/12) Administration response on Emeritus Status: NFA had proposed the current college policy be put in the CBA. Administration rejected NFA's proposal and indicated no interest in continued discussion, asserting that it was a permissive and not mandatory subject.

The disagreement on whether permissive subjects that bring benefit to faculty, students, and/or CSN should be negotiated or not aside, NFA believes this is a mandatory subject based on the fact that it concerns monetary compensation for and acts as a hiring process for emeritus teaching. Administration argued that emeritus faculty are out of the bargaining unit and so cannot be negotiated for, but the process to award emeritus status can take place for faculty who are in the bargaining unit, as it is for a couple of members of our team, since it can occur before retirement.

(12/12) Administration response on Policies and Practices: Administration indicated they agreed that the proposal's description of the hierarchy of policies was factual, but said they did not want to put it in the CBA and rejected the proposal.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bargaining update #2

The third collective bargaining negotiation session between NFA-CSN and CSN Administration took place Monday, November 28th. At the meeting, CSN Administration offered responses to various NFA proposals from the previous session, and the NFA-CSN team introduced four new proposals.

CSN Administration responses to NFA-CSN proposals:

Administration response to NFA proposal on Recognition: Administration accepted NFA's proposal of standard language formally acknowledging Administration's recognition of the results of the collective bargaining election. The NFA team is happy to report this first tentative agreement (TA) reached on an article of the new contract.

Administration response to NFA proposals on Grievance Procedure and Arbitration: Administration declined to make counter-proposals to NFA's proposals on Grievance Procedure and Arbitration; they preferred to see more of the “meat” of the contract before negotiating the enforcement mechanism.

NFA believes that there is no need to delay negotiating an enforcement mechanism. The fairness of an enforcement mechanism is not dependent on other articles in the contract, just as our want in the broader society for fair courts is not contingent on the specifics of the laws those courts enforce. The Grievance Procedure and Arbitration articles we proposed are not unusual-- they conform to norms in academic collective bargaining agreements (CBAs)-- and so we believe that Administration can proceed.

In lieu of a counter-proposal, there was at least a discussion on aspects of the NFA proposals. Administration expressed their preference that the ultimate arbiter of disputes regarding the CBA be the CSN President. NFA has an entirely different view. We believe that contract disputes should not be adjudicated by one of the parties to the contract. That is why we proposed Arbitration: the ultimate authority to resolve disputes related to whether the contract is being followed should be a neutral third party in the person of an arbitrator. The NFA team strenuously argued this point, and will continue to argue it, because we see it as key to having a meaningful contract to which the parties can be held to account.

Administration response on NFA proposal on Non-Discrimination: Administration rejected NFA's Non-Discrimination proposal.

NFA had essentially proposed the current college policy plus protections against discrimination based on NFA membership or activity. Administration stated that they did not see the need to put existing policy into the CBA, particularly given that there are existing legal protections regarding discrimination. Administration counter-proposed that the Non-Discrimination article should only cover discrimination based on NFA membership or activity.

The NFA team did not agree that there is no reason to put current policy into the CBA. Putting policy in the CBA makes it legally enforceable and also not subject to change without faculty approval.

The NFA team also did not agree that the fact of laws and regulations covering non-discrimination makes it an inappropriate subject for the CBA, just as the fact of those laws and regulations does not make it an inappropriate subject for college policy-- and what we have proposed is essentially the existing policy.

We see no reason why the college should not affirm non-discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. in the contract. CSN is a diverse community and, particularly in the current political climate, we believe that putting non-discrimination in the CBA would send a valuable message of our commitment to inclusiveness and opposition to discrimination.

New NFA-CSN proposals:

NFA proposal on Faculty Handbook and Policies and Procedures Manual: proposes that the Faculty Handbook be regularly updated in consultation with faculty. Also proposes that the Faculty Handbook and Policies and Procedures Manual be archived both electronically and in hardcopy on an annual basis, with the hardcopies stored in the CSN library.

NFA proposal on Emeritus Status: proposes that the current college Emeritus Status policy be put into the CBA.

NFA proposal on Saving Clause: proposes standard language stating that the legal invalidation of some part of the contract does not invalidate other parts of the contract.


NFA proposal on Policies and Practices: clarifies that policies in the contract supersede other CSN or NSHE policies where they conflict. Establishes that past practices not contradicted by the contract shall continue.