Sessions 26 & 27: Defining “Professionals” and “Reasonable” Workloads

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We began constructing a solution to AP workload issues this session. Although, still in a conceptual stage, the teams are working on a Letter of Agreement, which defines reasonable workload expectations for academic professionals. The agreement also clarifies what it means to be a professional employee. Professionals should not need to keep an hour-by-hour accounting of their time and should enjoy some flexibility in scheduling how and when they complete their work. Issues around scheduling have come-up in a number of AP units. This language provides a clearer statement of what it means to be professional and should help guide managers who struggle with this concept.

The Letter of Agreement also states that APs should not be assigned an “unreasonable or excessive workload.” In order to enforce this language, we first needed to define what a reasonable workload looks like. Since AP positions are so diverse, we asserted that a “reasonable” workload standard should be 40 hours a week, which is our commonly held cultural understanding of what full-time employments means. The 40 hour work week is something that the labor movement fought for decades to achieve.   Unionists died for this right.

Discussions about AP workload have taken so long, because the administration fundamentally disagreed with our assertion that full-time work means 40 hours a week. We spent hours going back and forth on this issue. Administration had some legitimate concerns about defining the work week in terms of hours, because exempt employee’s work often fluctuates, and the very nature of exempt employment means that one is salaried, rather than hourly. Finally, we agreed to use a 2080 hours annual standard (which is common in many collective bargaining agreements covering exempt employees). This is the yearly equivalent of a forty hour workweek.

The Letter of Agreement also creates a process that APs can use when they have experienced problems flexing their schedules or believe they have been assigned an unreasonable workload. The AP will first attempt to work things out with their supervisor. If there is no resolution, an ad-hoc committee which includes labor, management, the affected AP and the supervisor will be charged with negotiating a mutually, agreeable solution within 30 days. We are still hammering out the details of this part of the agreement.

This Letter of Agreement will be renegotiated when the AP class and compensation study is completed. The study may result in some APs becoming overtime-eligible, which could affect workload provisions. We encourage APs who experience workload issues or problems with flexing their schedule to come forward. The more we raise this issue, the more likely it will be that the workload language we’ve negotiated will become a permanent part of Article 17.

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Session 25: Workloads

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

We came to the table today feeling optimistic about finding a solution to the workload problems our academic professional employees face. In our previous session, we worked-off of an option that the administration had crafted to address AP workloads and terms of employment. We had some very productive discussions about how the option met or failed to meet our interest. It felt like we were moving closer to some kind of resolution. So, our charge for this week was to revise this option based upon the discussions we had in our last session.

Our team brought a revised option to the table that was based upon the language the administration had presented during the previous week. Apparently, we were much too optimistic. We spent the session rehashing many of the same issues we had discussed in the previous one. Basically, we don’t have a shared understanding of what “full-time” employment means.

Both sides felt frustrated and exhausted by the end of the session. Our mediator assured us that in her experience, things getting heated at the table is often the sign of an impending breakthrough. I hope this is the case. Our team will spend the week trying to find a resolution to this issue.

Workload is a major issue for our members. From Admissions counselors who read three times the national average number of applications each year to our tenured Art faculty who teach twenty eight credits and still have high expectations for scholarship and service, to non-tenure track Music faculty who teach online classes with 150 students, workload is a serious problem at PSU, which many insist stands for Personal Sacrifice University.

We are constantly expected to do more with less. Because we live in a state that routinely disinvests in education, we understand that working at PSU involves some trade-offs. But does it have to mean you spend 50-60 hours a week for a wage that remains persistently in lowest percentile? Please join us this Thursday, January 21st from noon-1:30 in the Urban Center Gallery (2nd floor of the Urban Building) to hear Howard Bunsis, Chair of the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress and Professor of Accounting as he addresses: The Financial Situation at PSU. Do they have the money? Are they spending it the right way?

Bargaining: Where things stand and where we’re headed

By Leanne Serbulo, VP for Collective Bargaining

Welcome back! Things at the bargaining table haven’t been quite as dramatic as our weather; it’s been more like running though quicksand. We’re making progress, but it’s steady and terribly slow.

Instead of sending out member email messages each time we meet, we’ve been posting our weekly bargaining updates on this blog. We decided to do this for a number of reasons. We’re using the Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) process to negotiate our contract. IBB is a more collaborative, problem-solving form of negotiations. It also requires more lengthy and frequent meetings. Rather than flooding your inbox with constant updates, we decided to create a bargaining blog and send out member messages when we reach a tentative agreement on an article or issue.

We’ve been in negotiations since May and met regularly during the summer, so many of you may not have read about all of the agreements we’ve reached so far. We still have a number of outstanding issues, including all of the bargaining around economics. We didn’t schedule our issues in any priority format; instead we started off with the issues we thought would be easy to resolve (some work had already been done by labor/management task forces). It wasn’t nearly as quick or easy as we thought it would be, but here’s a list of the major accomplishments so far:

  • Sick Leave Bank: Members can join the bank by donating 3 hours of unused sick leave. Bank members become eligible to use up to 30 days of paid sick time if they have a catastrophic illness, need to care for a loved one or want to take parental leave and have exhausted all of their paid leave.
  • Work/Life Balance Committee: This standing committee will examine PSU policies and suggest ways to create healthier work/life balance.
  • Academic Quality Task Force: will continue its work with administrative support.
  • Non-Tenure Track Faculty Job Security: Non-Tenure Track faculty will now be eligible for continuous appointments once they reach seniority and undergo a successful, cumulative peer review. Current NTTF who have reached seniority and have promoted or have undergone at least four reviews will have their positions converted to continuous appointments.
  • Post-Tenure Review Salary Enhancements: will be fully funded throughout the entire five–year review cycle.
  • Summer Session Pay Rates: are now in the contract. If you teach during summer session, you will be paid the historic rate (2.5% of annual salary rate/credit hour). Summer pay cannot be arbitrarily reduced. AAUP will receive reports on Summer Session faculty mix and course cancellations.
  • Academic Professionals Classification/Compensation Issues: The administration will hire a consultant to conduct a classification/compensation study for all AP positions. The study will examine the job families, duties, create pathways for promotion and provide a structure to reward APs for their expertise, experience and excellent performance. The full cost of the study will be borne by the administration. While the study is underway, APs will receive a fixed-rate longevity adjustment based upon their years of experience at PSU. The rate/time of service will be decided in economics bargaining.

While we’ve made some serious progress on issues that have plagued PSU for a long time, we still have many important areas we need to address:

  • Professional Development: We’d like to see guaranteed access to professional developments funds. We’d also like to see more programs developed to support faculty research and teaching.
  • Sabbatical: The current rate of pay for year-long sabbaticals is much too low, making it difficult for faculty to take adequate time off to conduct research.
  • Improved job security for researcher-intensive NTTF: We’d like to see better job security for our research-intensive NTTF and a bridge funding pool to support researchers during funding lulls.

Finally, we need a raise! There are serious compensation issues at PSU. Not only are we at the bottom of the pay scale when we compare our salaries to our peer institutions, but there are also internal pay equity issues that need to be addressed.

We hope to get to economics bargaining by the end of February. But we need your help! While non-economic issue-based bargaining has moved fairly smoothly (although slowly) using IBB, there’s no guarantee that economics will not be contentious. After all, it is about money. If we want to see more investments made in instruction, research and student support, we need our members to step up.

Howard Bunsis from AAUP National will be on campus on Thursday, January 21st to give an analysis of PSU’s financial outlook and its budget priorities. Howard has visited PSU before, and his presentations are always interesting and informative. We need you there! Please join us from noon-1:30 in the Urban Center Gallery (2nd floor Urban Building) for Howard’s talk.

Our success at the table depends upon your support. Thanks to all of you who attended our bargaining kick-off rally the summer socials and bargaining sessions. Your presence has made a tremendous difference.