Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bargaining update #10

The teams met for bargaining sessions Monday, May 8th on North Las Vegas campus, and Friday May 19th, on West Charleston campus. These sessions were somewhat low-key, as due to family and work obligations Administration Lead Negotiator Patty Charlton was absent from both, and CSN General Counsel Richard Hinckley was absent from the first.

Similar items were discussed at both meetings.

MFA as Grade 5 credential for salary: NFA had previously proposed that a MFA be counted as a Grade 5 salary credential for faculty in relevant fields. Reasons include:

  • MFA may be the terminal degree;
  • A course being taught by an MFA aids in establishing that the course's units are transferable;
  • In the past MFA has been treated as a Grade 5 salary credential at CSN;
  • MFA is the only degree besides PhD that research Universities will treat as a qualifying credential for tenure-track positions;
  • MFA is accepted by other community colleges as a highest qualification.

On 5/8, Administration countered by accepting the basic premise that MFA should count for Grade 5 for applicable faculty, and seeking to define the precise areas in which that would be. Administration's proposal was that it should be for “Studio Arts,” based on policy from Austin Community College, considered a comparator institution to CSN.

As to what precisely “Studio Arts” might refer to at CSN, on 5/19 NFA presented a counter listing out areas in Fine Arts, Media Technologies, and Creative Writing in English. These are productive and/or performative areas, most of which take place in a physical studio, where MFA is commonly recognized as a relevant credential, and in which there are faculty teaching at CSN who are already having their MFA counted as a Grade 5 credential.

New proposal- Department Chairs: On 5/8, NFA brought a new proposal regarding Department Chairs. This was in specific reaction to a situation that arose with a Department Chair election this semester. The NFA proposal was status quo Department Chair policy, with one alteration made to address the situation that occurred.

Administration returned on 5/19 saying that they did not want to negotiate anything on Department Chairs other than compensation, which is a mandatory subject of bargaining. It was later noted that they felt the same way about Program Directors.

NFA immediately pointed out that in the TMCC contract, all aspects of the Program Director and Department Chair roles are spelled out. Administration responded that they were not moved by this. According to their thinking, these were permissive topics that TMCC Administration chose to negotiate, but that they prefer not to.

NFA believes that in fact the role, duties, and process to get and lose Department Chair and Program Director status, are all mandatory subjects of bargaining implicitly tied to compensation. You cannot negotiate compensation without negotiating “for what.”

The TMCC contract is sensible in this regard. We also note that both Administration Lead Negotiator Patty Charlton, and team member John Adlish, at a previous session invited an NFA proposal on Department Chairs along the lines of our Program Directors proposal.

Revised proposal- Successorship: On 5/19, NFA presented a revised proposal on Successorship. This added some new sections formally proposing a contract duration of three years (on which the parties had appeared to be in informal agreement), that the parties should be able to reopen the contract for modifications upon mutual agreement, and that the contract should continue in effect if a successor agreement has not yet been ratified at the time of its expiration.

The proposal also modified the no-outsourcing language by taking out the proposed requirement for Administration to meet and negotiate with NFA over any outsourcing, while keeping our core point that in the case of oursourcing or reorganization, bargaining unit members should keep their employment and the new employing entity should be made to recognize NFA and be bound by the CBA.

The NFA team presented a number of cautionary tales about outsourcing in higher education. Team member John Aliano formerly worked at the College of Sante Fe where all faculty lost their tenure status and the school was privatized. Various other examples were presented, including NSHE's push to outsource DE several years ago, and the outsourcing of IT at CSN. Faculty should have the guarantee of protection of the CBA and union status in the case that something like this affects members of the CSN bargaining unit.

Administration listened to NFA's arguments and then asked what protections tenure status would afford in this kind of scenario. The NFA team raised several reasons why this would not be enough, from the fact that not all the bargaining unit has tenure (pre-tenure and market hire faculty), to the potential for financial exigency layoffs as part of the outsourcing process, to, as Aminul Km of Math pointed out, the loss of teaching work for the bargaining unit leading to later layoffs.

For NFA, outsourcing is a dangerous game, attractive to some because of cheapness, that can lead to a drastic decline in instructional quality, hurting students. We want to make sure that bargaining unit members continue to be employed under the same CBA-established conditions, so that we can be at ease knowing that we will be able to continue to provide quality education to students.

Revised proposal- Policies and Practices: On 5/8 NFA presented a revised version of our Policies and Practices proposal. It distilled our original proposal down to its most essential elements: a description of the authority of the CBA and what it will and will not do vis a vis other policies. It indicates that, as per NSHE code, the CBA is the highest order policy document, and that other policies inconsistent with or contradicting the CBA are superseded by the CBA, while at the same time other policies that are consistent with and not addressed by the CBA are not negated by the existence of the CBA.

Administration agreed with the description of the authority and role of the CBA, but did not want to put this article into the CBA. They indicated some concern about it granting NFA the ability to grieve non-CBA policies through the CBA. That is not NFA's intention with this item, and we are confident we can find a way to address this concern.

Overload Requests: NFA and Administration went back and forth with minute changes to the Overload Requests proposal, which is very similar to status quo practice. The first four units of overload “shall be granted” and units above four up to six “may be granted” by the Department Chair, in consultation with the Program Director if applicable, with approval of the Dean (a small change from requiring VPAA approval).

Work out of Title: The parties were at cross-purposes regarding Work out of Title, which was discussed in both sessions. The intention of NFA's proposal was to assure that faculty would not be assigned inappropriate work tasks as part of normal work time. Administration's counter dealt only with the assigning of additional tasks outside of normal work time. So the two proposals did not address the same thing.

At the second session, the NFA team amended much of Administration's language regarding additional tasks into our proposal. But Administration was not interested in NFA's proposed protection on the types of work faculty could be made to do (namely, that if a faculty member was assigned a task not in his/her job description, he/she would be due extra pay). One bone of contention was Administration's not wanting to include any job descriptions in the CBA. NFA believes that having clear, well-defined expectations for what kind of work a faculty member may be expected to do would be of benefit.

The bottom line for NFA is that faculty members are professionals, and due the professional respect of a guarantee that they will not be made to do inappropriate work-- or at least, the guarantee that if needs must and they are made to, it will not happen frequently and they will receive additional pay as a consideration.

Grievance Procedure: Administration's first counter on Grievance Procedure (with grievance defined as an allegation that the CBA has been violated, NOT grievance in the sense of an institutional/NSHE complaint not related to the CBA) had a similar structure to NFA's first proposal. Differences included:

  • Whether NFA as an organization should have the right to pursue a grievance
  • How long various time periods for filing and responding to a grievance should be
  • Who on the part of Administration should be involved in each step of the process
  • Whether NFA should have organizational control over what grievances go to arbitration

NFA countered on 5/8 holding that NFA as an organization should have the right to pursue a grievance, and that we should have control over what grievances go to arbitration. Both are normal rights for a union to have, and important. We adopted some of Administration's numbers on time periods for filing and responding, and in other cases moved our numbers closer to theirs. We accepted Administration's language on who would be involved on their part in each step of the process.

Discipline and Termination: NFA presented a Discipline and Termination counter on 5/8. Our counter adopted a large amount of language from Administration's first counter. In their counter, Administration had listed four points of disagreement with our original proposal, and we made changes addressing three of the four points (Title IX, apparently unclear language around discipline panel selection, standard of proof).

We did not accept Administration's fourth point, that the final authority in any case of discipline must be the College President. We believe it is best that this power rests with a third party. We have proposed that a faculty discipline panel, or an arbitrator serve this function. Having discipline decisions subject to review and confirmation or denial by a third party is normal in a union context. Unionized hotel workers and tradespeople have that right, and so should faculty. We don't believe this should be particularly controversial.

Some disagreement continued on the standard of evidence required for termination. NSHE code asks for “evidence which establishes that it is more likely than not that the respondent has violated the rules of conduct.” NFA added the word “much” to “more likely than not” to indicate we think it should be more likely than an approximate coin flip that a person has actually done what they are being fired for supposedly having done. Administration said that they saw our point, but that they preferred to keep a consistent standard with NSHE and general legal practice, as “much more likely” does not have an established legal interpretation.

Despite the differences on both Grievance Procedure and Discipline and Termination, Administration expressed that they thought we weren't too far from agreement. NFA is also cautiously optimistic.