Session 23: Conceptual Agreement Reached for AP Promotion and Pay

By Leanne Serbulo, VP of Collective Bargaining

Good news! We’ve come to a conceptual agreement that addresses the pay and promotional issues faced by our academic professionals. The administration will pay for a comprehensive classification and compensation study that will develop new titles and job families for academic professional positions. The new families will be designed with promotional pathways and pay structures will be created that reward specialized knowledge or expertise, on the job experience and excellence. There will be a regional market study conducted to determine how APs are paid at our comparator institutions.

The RFP to hire a consultant to conduct the classification and compensation study will be jointly developed by PSU AAUP and the Administration. Academic professionals will be given opportunities to provide input throughout the study process. No academic professional will experience a reduction in pay, FTE or change in union representation as a result of the classification study. The recommendations from the study will have to be bargained over before they can be implemented.

This classification and compensation study will help drive some of the structural changes that are needed to provide sustainable career pathways for PSU’s academic professionals. It also addresses the administration’s need to reexamine both academic professional and unrepresented employees’ job descriptions in order be in compliance with the new Department of Labor standards regarding overtime pay eligibility that are due to go into effect next year. The entire cost of the study will be borne by the administration, and it will not have any monetary impact on the economic issues we want to address in this contract.

While the classification and compensation study is a long-term solution to some of the employment issues our APs face, it may take a while for it to be completed, so in the meantime, academic professionals will receive a longevity adjustment based upon their years of experience at PSU. The longevity adjustment will be a fixed amount added to one’s annual salary and graduated for each year of service interval. APs who have been at PSU at least 2 years but less than 3 will receive a small adjustment, then the intervals will be as follows: 3 to less than 5 years, 5 to less than 7, 7 to less than 10, and every 5 years after that (10-15, 15-20, 20-25 and so on). The amount for each interval will be determined during economics bargaining. The longevity adjustments will be awarded in the first year of the contract. If the result of the classification and compensation study are not finalized by the second year of the contract, another round of longevity adjustments will take place.

We will send out an official communication with more detail about this agreement once we finalize the contract language. We will move on to generating options to deal with AP workload issues at our next session. After that, we will begin to discuss professional development. It’s nice to end the year on a positive note! We look forward to a fair and fast resolution to our outstanding issues when we return to bargaining in January. Happy New Year!


Session 22: Board Disruption and AP Recognition

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

It was great to see so many academic professionals attend our bargaining session. Having members in the room shows the administration that our bargaining unit cares about the issues on the table, and it also helps keep our own bargaining team energized and informed. Being able to talk with members helps us have a better understanding of the specific issues our members face and inspires us to push harder to find solutions that will improve people’s working conditions.

Unfortunately, the first part of the bargaining session was taken-up with a communication issue that emerged at Thursday’s Board of Trustees’ meeting. Trust and communication are essential to making the Interest-Based Bargaining process a success. When miscommunications or a breach of trust occurs, it is important to discuss and resolve these issues before moving on with bargaining. The joint bargaining update scheduled for Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting was canceled as a result of the student occupation. The Board left the room and resumed their meeting remotely, while PSU AAUP remained behind with the students. When the meeting resumed, a brief update was given by a member of the administrative team. This was problematic for our team, because given the limited access we’ve had to the board, we believe that the update should have been cancelled until both parties were present. After a conversation, we agreed that in the future, joint bargaining updates will only proceed if both parties are present.

We then resumed our discussions about the lack of promotional opportunities and relatively flat salary schedules faced by our academic professionals. We returned to the discussion by first reviewing some of the data our team prepared about the average salary rates for APs by length of service in various job families (i.e. Advisor/Counselor I, Program Manager II). While each job family has a minimum and maximum salary assigned to it, most of our members are concentrated at the lower end of that range, and many APs who’ve been at Portland State longer make on average, less than their newly hired counterparts. Reexamining this data sparked a discussion about how to define salary compression and inversion and prompted a more detailed examination of some of the discrepancies within each job family, which are defined broadly and capture a number of diverse job titles.

The option that is currently on the table to resolve these issues involves hiring a consultant to reengineer the job families to provide more clarity about AP job duties, create promotional ladders within various job titles and design a salary structure that rewards experience and expertise. However, given the time it will take to complete the reclassification study and the pressing need for an immediate fix to our AP salary structure, we have also proposed a longevity adjustment as short-term fix. The longevity adjustment would create graduated minimum salary rates for APs based upon their years of experience. For example, an AP who has worked at PSU for five years would have a higher minimum salary than someone who has been here only three years. No academic professional would receive a reduction in pay as a result of switching to this graduated pay structure. The minimums would increase annually, and APs would have an opportunity to move-up the pay structure. The pay structure would be incorporated into the reclassification effort or would be replaced by a more detailed structure that rewards APs for their length of service.

At this point, the longevity adjustment/reclassification study are simply an option, however, there seemed to be an emerging consensus around this idea. PSU AAUP has agreed to bring examples of what a longevity-based pay scale could look like to our next session.   There are many details that would need to be worked out, such as what the length of service intervals would be for particular job families.   Salary minimums would have to be negotiated as part of our overall economic package. Please join us next week as we continue to discuss AP issues. We will bargain on Wednesday, December 16th from 10-4 in ASRC 650 and on Friday, December 18th from 10-4 in ASRC 620.

Session 21: Recognizing and Rewarding APs

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

Last Friday, we got into some in-depth discussions about how to fix academic professional (AP) pay structures. Currently, academic professionals have little opportunity for advancement in pay or position, so as a group, they face serious salary compression and inversion. For example, on average, Advisor/Counselor I’s with 4-7 years of experience earn less money than those who have been here less than one year.

In our last session, we presented a step-system model where academic professionals would receive a bump in pay for each year of work experience and receive pay differentials for job-related expertise, such as bilingual skills or having certifications or advanced degrees. Administration wanted to explore other solutions, and today, they proposed an Academic Professional reclassification study. This option would bring in a consultant to analyze our current job family structures and come-up with a system that would regroup APs according to their job-specific duties. This system could provide opportunities for advancement (for example, there could be a Financial Aid Counselor I, II and III position created), and restructure salaries. It would also help clarify AP duties in preparation for the new Department of Labor standards regarding overtime pay that will go into effect next year. The scope of the consultant’s work would be determined jointly by administration and AAUP. While this option may provide advancement opportunities for our academic professionals over the long-term, we need to do something more immediate to fix the pressing problems of salary inversion and compression and inversion.

We would be open to a reclassification study, but our APs need to have an immediate recalibration of their salary structure in order to more accurately recognize the contributions they’ve made to Portland State. In our last round of negotiations, our APs received a one-time, salary compression adjustment. While this percentage increase was appreciated, it wasn’t significant or enduring enough to correct the long-standing salary compression/inversion issues. Because the minimum salaries for APs and NTTF were raised to $40,000, many experienced APs, even with the compression adjustment, still ended up making less than their newly hired counterparts. We suggested that a step system could be immediately enacted, and then readjusted once the reclassification study was completed.

We began weighing the two options on the table (step system and reclassification study) against our interests, which is the fifth step in the IBB process. The first interest was ending AP salary compression and inversion. Most of us agreed that the step system address this problem, however, a few members of the administrative team were “uncertain” and said this process felt too positional. So we switched to a brainstorming session, where a number of options were quickly generated by both teams. In addition to a step system, merit pay and funding the salary advancement pool (this is a set pool of money that APs can apply for to recalibrate their salaries) were suggested. Both sides agreed to bring a revised options based upon our brainstorm to the table for our next bargaining session. We meet again next Friday, December 11th from 10:30-4:00 in ASRC 660.