This bargaining session began as planned by addressing three articles that were under consideration. Right off the bat, a TA (tentative agreement) was reached in the articles addressing University Rights (Article 7) and Salary/Workload (Article 11). The discussion then moved to the language OSU had proposed as a modification to the Grievance Procedure (Article 18).
The first change to Article 18 that concerned the CGE bargaining team was the proposal to remove the expedited grievance procedure for unit clarification (Section 4). What the language of this section did was establish a faster procedure for addressing questions of when a graduate employee could have been misclassified as not being covered by the contract (or vice-versa). As the Employment Relations Board (ERB) decision removes the distinction for classification between GTAs and GRAs employed by the various departments on campus, it may appear that this section is now irrelevant. However, given that this is a period of transition as CGE welcomes the GRAs into the bargaining unit, it is thought that it would be better to keep some process in place to address unit eligibility issues more rapidly than other kinds of employment issues. CGE also hopes to keep the language to quickly resolve grievances when appointments are inappropriately moved to hourly work (and therefore out of the bargaining unit). OSU’s team expressed their appreciation of our concerns, but expressed their concern with the procedure as it is currently written. (These concerns have been expressed before.) They will be looking for an alternative to the current procedure and come back to the table with information at a future session.
The second change to Article 18 that was the cause of much disappointment and frustration for CGE’s team was a proposed new section. OSU’s team continued with their shenanigans to undermine the ERB decision by proposing the same language as was brought forward in past sessions in proposals for Article 10 and Article 11 which would exclude any work a graduate employee did as part of their academic progress from being allowed any contractual protections. CGE’s team indicated their continuing refusal to give up the rights to contractual protections that the GRAs overwhelmingly voted to have.
Then came the bombshell: the CGE team stated their view that the contract language proposed is a permissive subject of bargaining. What this means is that it is not something that the CGE team has to respond to during bargaining, nor can it be something that OSU refuses to ratify the contract over if it is not included. To really appreciate the delicious irony of this situation, the reason GRAs were not covered by any prior contract is that OSU’s bargaining teams would refuse to discuss the language regarding who was in the bargaining unit and who was not, as unit clarification is a permissive subject of bargaining! Naturally, OSU’s team took the position that as this language related to an employee’s work (Yes! Finally, work!), it made it a mandatory subject of bargaining. CGE stood by the interpretation that this is a backdoor means of redefining the bargaining unit, and thus permissive.
After a short caucus, CGE’s team indicated that it shared some of the concerns that OSU had about an arbitrator deciding upon academically related issues and that some alternative grievance procedure might be called for in those situations. OSU’s team said they would need to talk about it amongst themselves and would not be able to continue that line of conversation during this session.
Next, CGE brought in their witness Sean McGregor to talk about his experiences from being offered TA/RA appointments from other universities he considered attending and the experience he has had at OSU within his own department in finding and receiving GTA and GRA appointments during the past four years. He spoke about how many people in his department on term-by-term appointments spend a great deal of time just trying to find a source of funding for future terms, time that could be more productively spent on their research if they had longer appointments. He mentioned that in some cases there are grads that end up having a conflict with their advisor and no longer are able to find appointments from any professors in the department since nobody wants to cause any kind of scandal. He also described how a couple of other universities he had received offers from had explicit or implicit guarantees of funding for the duration of the programs he had applied for.
After a short caucus to chew over Sean’s testimony, the discussion continued around Appointments (Article 9). CGE’s team reiterated the need for grad employees to have stability in their employment. OSU’s team repeated their stance that the OSU budget cannot be worked to forecast any appointments longer than one year, and that with the way GRA appointments work, sometimes not even a nine-month academic year. The conversation continued over possible ways to manage the financial impact to OSU were longer appointments to be made. After one more brief caucus, the CGE team proposed a sort of trial program to assess what sort of fiscal impact making academic year-long appointments might have on OSU if it happened that OSU needed to make layoffs from having too many appointments during the year. OSU’s team said they needed to look into it more.
To wrap up the session, the agenda for August 1 was set. Personal time will be on the table during that time.
[Post by Forrest Parker]
Our brothers and sisters in SEIU (classified staff on campus) continue to struggle in their contract negotiations. They’re rallying for a fair contract on Thursday, August 1 at noon in the MU quad. Be there in purple!