Sunday, April 30, 2017

NFA-CSN response to Administration's Salary narrative

Administration posted a statement on Salary to their website. This is NFA's response. Administration's statement text is in italics, NFA response is in plain text preceded by a dash.

NFA criticized CSN’s counter-offer on salary arguing that faculty have received zero raises over the last ten years, which they believe indicates that faculty aren’t valued.

NFA’s argument that there have been no raises for 10 years is incorrect as demonstrated by their own data.

--- This is not an accurate representation of NFA's view on the history of salary increases at CSN. NFA presented data showing the history of salary increases, so it's not fair to say that NFA says there have been no raises. NFA's position is that faculty's effective compensation, outside of the 2013 Equity process, has been stagnant, given inflation, increase to health care costs, furloughs, and base reduction.

The argument that faculty aren’t valued is an emotional reaction that is absolutely untrue.

--- If unhappiness about compensation history over the last years is an “emotional reaction,” it is one shared by many faculty. Through numerous conversations, and surveys, the collective bargaining vote, and our bargaining support cards, we have seen that the feeling that “nobody is looking out for me” is widespread among faculty.

Also, NFA has written that CSN is not willing to commit any resources to CSN’s salary proposal.  Again, this is an incorrect conclusion clearly contrary to the CSN salary proposal.

--- NFA-CSN cannot detect any hard commitment of resources in the CSN salary proposal. We cannot see how this is “clearly contrary” to the text of CSN's proposal.

Faculty base salary levels rose 23% since FY07 because of merit and COLA increases.  Additionally, the Governor has proposed a 2% increase on July 1, 2017 and another 2% increase on July 1, 2018.

--- First of all, depending on the window chosen, these numbers can look much different. Substantial raises in '07-'09 bring up the total here; when looking at '10-'17 it is 5.5%-- at the same time as four years of furlough and two years of base salary reduction, which Administration does not mention anywhere in their salary narrative.

Second, taking the '07-'17 window, the government's CPI calculator shows that there has been 20.9% inflation. Combined with increases to health care expense, all of the gains are wiped out. NFA had shown a slide earlier in the negotiation comparing COLAs to CPI changes to make this point.

CSN is also fully supportive of efforts to request that the Legislature make an appropriation for merit pay.  The College leaves that task primarily to the NFA through its legislative contacts, especially those who have written in support of NFA-AAUP/CSN negotiations.

--- This paragraph encapsulates what NFA sees as a typical attitude of NSHE toward faculty salary. A profession of support (“fully supportive...”) is matched with a lack of actually doing anything (“The College leaves that task...”).

We have seen this play out repeatedly. For example, for this legislative session NSHE has repeatedly declared that faculty merit pay is their top priority. However, what NFA has heard – hearsay, but from the mouths of trusted legislators – is that this is not at all what they advocate or are focused on behind closed doors. Indeed, NSHE in the form of Regents declared their delight with the Governor's budget when it was announced, despite their supposed top priority of faculty merit going unfunded.

No wonder that faculty feel weakly advocated for, and want to take more agency in determining their compensation.

In addition to merit and COLA increases, CSN performed an internal Equity Study in 2013, and 336 academic faculty (approx. 70%) received increases to base salary levels in 2014.  The largest adjustment was just over 42%, the smallest was slightly less than 2%, and the average adjustment was approximately 18.5%.  These adjustments were funded by internal CSN resources pursuant to the NSHE Procedures and Guidelines Manual.

--- NFA is in general thankful that such raises were granted. They are a bright spot in the overall bleak picture. They also show that the College can fund and has-- as the Administration statement indicates – internally funded raises.

While appreciating that these raises were a substantial financial outlay, NFA-CSN has obtained the data and is reviewing the numbers presented here. We have already found an example of a sub-one-percent raise among those who did get raises, and of course, there were numerous faculty who didn't get any raise, as Administration notes.

Therefore, using the data from the last 10 years, academic faculty base salaries have increased substantially.   

NFA also has used a comparison of merit appropriations with step increases for the classified employees.  CSN does not believe this is an appropriate comparison because the classified employees’ salary levels are lower (generally ¼ or ½ of the salary levels of academic faculty).  This is one of the underlying justifications for the Legislature’s appropriations for step increases. 

--- One NFA slide in our Salary presentation did show that it has been the case that classifieds have received step increases when faculty did not receive merit. Comparison with classified step increases is an approach we take at the legislature to make our case. It seems strange that Administration is re-presenting arguments against faculty receiving merit, and anyway it is not relevant to the negotiations at CSN.

Nevertheless, the reference to the classified employees emphasizes the point that the Legislature is the source for appropriations for special adjustments, and this overall responsibility is not placed with each individual college or university absent legislative appropriation.   

--- NFA-CSN does not agree. Administration only several paragraphs ago touted its 2013 Equity Study, which was funded entirely by NSHE resources (half from CSN, half from NSHE). Therefore, even pre-CBA (collectively bargained agreement) the legislature has not been the source for every adjustment and the College and NSHE have had a role. This is part of why NFA-CSN chose Equity Study as one of the main arenas for our Salary proposal in the CBA negotiations.

NSHE’s established method to enable a review of the appropriateness of the professors’ salaries relative to the job-market is to perform the NSHE salary study.  Everyone agrees that this should be done, and CSN urges that we collaboratively insist that it be done.  

--- A salary study by NSHE to move the numbers in the Salary Schedule would indeed be welcomed by NFA. Why not?

However, the more fundamental problem faced at CSN, is that faculty salaries do not stack up to the Salary Schedule. NFA believes that more than three quarters are below the so-called median on the schedule. Without an Equity Study referencing the Salary Schedule, as NFA has proposed, there is no mechanism by which faculty salaries move based on the Schedule. So the problem is not just what the numbers are, but bringing them to reality.

Thereafter, depending on the results, Legislative appropriations need to be made to match the outcome of the study.

In reply to NFA’s salary proposal, CSN has proposed to:
-Perform another internal Equity Study with a target completion of 4 months after CBA ratification.  CSN recognizes that these studies must be performed at appropriate cycles.  As noted earlier, the results of Equity Studies are implemented with CSN internal funding sources.
-Join with NFA to request NSHE perform the NSHE salary study.

Regarding the note that “these studies must be performed at appropriate cycles,” NFA notes that Administration did not perform the 2015 Equity Study, disrupting the two-year pattern prescribed in NSHE code. There has been no Equity Study since 2013.

No one disputes the painful rise in employees’ out-of-pocket costs on the medical benefit.  This is a national phenomenon driven by national policy decisions.  Salary adjustments can help with this problem, but CSN is not permitted to absorb the increased cost of premiums.

--- It is a national phenomenon, and also a state phenomenon. The legislature could allocate more money, or take different policy decisions. This goes back to feeling weakly advocated for in the political sphere. NFA-CSN also wonders what Administration is referring to in being “not permitted” – it seems that with the will to commit resources and some creativity a solution could be found to help defray faculty health care costs.

CSN must follow all applicable law, which includes the Regents’ Handbook.  Importantly, Section 9 of the Collective Bargaining chapter provides:

The System is constrained by funding resources external to its control and subject to approval by bodies not participant in negotiations such as are provided by these regulations. No provision of any bargaining agreement negotiated pursuant to this chapter which requires the expenditure of funds for any purpose shall be effective unless and until funds are appropriated and are made available to the System by the Nevada Legislature….

So far, NFA has not provided a meaningful or reasonable response to CSN’s point that this law must be followed.  NFA’s only response is that “CSN can pay.”

--- This is a reductionist presentation of NFA's discussion on this point, which includes: that we are asking for Salary via an internally funded method that has been used before; that co-funding is now the budgeting reality, with CSN receiving less than half its operating budget from legislative appropriation; that unrestricted reserves can be argued to be already appropriated for any purpose; and that Salary is listed as a mandatory subject of bargaining in the NSHE Code.

To us, our Salary proposal successfully balances the above text from Section 9 with Section 13.1(a) which lists as a mandatory subject of bargaining “a. Salary or wage rates or other forms of direct monetary compensation.”

CSN is not permitted to ignore lawful requirements.  CSN is not willing to unilaterally modify the means and manner for funding salary adjustments.   

--- In NFA-CSN's view, an Equity Study is not any major modification to the “means and manner” of NSHE salary adjustments. It is part of the Code, and as a recent legislative information request to NSHE revealed, Equity adjustments have been commonplace all across NSHE over the last five years.

We have further determined that there is a large amount of discretion given in determining the criteria for the Equity Studies.

Therefore, although a CBA, per code, may modify code (Section 13.2-3), and so we could conceivably negotiate for Salary in many different ways, we have chosen negotiating over the Equity Study, given both how it is already presented in code and how it has been put into practice throughout the system over the last five years. We feel that involvement for a faculty union in determining the parameters of an Equity Study, from the resources available to the criteria to be used, is appropriate based on Section 13.1(a) listing Salary as a mandatory subject of bargaining.