Background and Survey
Oregon’s new paid sick leave law, Senate Bill 454, will be effective on January 1, 2016. The new legislation can be found here.
In order to understand the needs of CGE members, the bargaining team developed a survey on key issues:
- Of the 206 respondents, 42% were GTAs, 35% GRAs, and 23% both.
- Respondents most frequently reported needing 8 hours of sick leave per term.
- Rather than accruing sick leave at a rate of one hour paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, 94% of respondents stated that “pre-loading” sick leave (having a certain amount available at the beginning of one’s appointment) would be beneficial.
- Under the law, employees may carry over up to 40 hours per year of sick leave. However, another option may be for employees to be paid for unused sick time. 71% of respondents preferred a payout option, citing general good health and short appointments meaning that carryover would not happen for them. 29% preferred a carryover option, citing that it could be used for long-term illness or parental leave.
- Under the law, employees who use sick time cannot be required to search for or find a replacement worker, or be made to work an alternate shift. 36% of respondents stated that they currently find their own replacement and then make it up to the replacement. 34% stated that no one replaces them and they make up the work when they are better. 8% stated that a professor/supervisor covers for them or finds a replacement. A few respondents stated that their department has a database of substitutes to contact in case of illness.
- The ability to donate sick leave to other graduate employees was very important/important to 60% of respondents, neutral/no opinion for 34%, and unimportant/very unimportant to 6%.
Session 0: Tuesday, July 28
CGE: Ashley Bromley, Thomas Morrill, and Laura Syron.
OSU: Viki Dimick-Jackson, Employee and Labor Relations Manager.
We agreed to abide by the principles of Interest Based Bargaining (IBB), a process we’ve used in bargaining for the last few years. We mostly adopted the same ground rules we’ve used for the last few rounds of bargaining.
Session 1: Wednesday, August 19
CGE: Ashely Bromley, Thomas Morrill, Nikki Wiseman, and Laura Syron.
OSU: David Blake, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources, Donna Chastain, Director of Workplace Solutions, and Viki Dimick-Jackson, Employee and Labor Relations Manager.
We started the session by reviewing the ground rules for negotiation and confirming that the parties recognized the start of the 90 days for good faith negotiations beginning on June 22nd and lasting until September 20th.
This session focused on discussing OSU’s and CGE’s interests.
- Joint understanding of how to comply with the Senate Bill;
- Understanding the impact of paid sick leave to Graduate Employees; and
- Learning how changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Senate Bill will interact and affect leave as a whole.
- Sick leave that is accessible to Graduate Employees throughout their employment.
- If following the legal minimum that leave cannot be used until 91st day of employment, then no one will be able to take sick leave in their first term of employment, and people with only one term appointments will never have access to their leave.
- Graduate Employees work professional work weeks and their hours vary by day and week, which complicates tracking an accrual rate.
- Simple system for tracking the use of sick leave.
- Flexible sick leave policy that meets the needs of a varied population of Graduate Employees.
- A policy that only allows for carryover of leave will result in short-term employees losing any accrued leave.
- A policy that only allows for a payout of leave will result in employees who anticipate long-term medical absence (child birth, scheduled surgeries, etc.) losing the ability to save their leave to help cover those absences.
- System for finding replacements that removes the obligation from sick employees and is well-documented at the departmental level.
- Fair compensation for substitute employees who cover work for a sick employee.
- Possibility that employees who are working a 0.49 FTE may not be able to be paid in an hourly fashion because it will exceed their maximum compensation.
- System that does not create incentives for departments to deny leave to employees.
- If sick leave is managed and paid out of department budgets, then departments may pressure employees not to utilize their leave.
- If sick leave is managed and paid out of department budgets, then there could be difficulty for employees who move between departments and on/off grants.
- OSU is one employer and should deal with sick leave centrally.
- Sick leave policy that allows people to accommodate long-term absences
- Medical and family leave is currently unpaid for Graduate Employees.
- Donation of sick leave to fellow employees could assist with this financial burden.
Generally, OSU agreed that it shared interests with CGE.
The HR bargaining team understood that the graduate employee population is varied and has varying needs. New systems would need to be created so that sick employees do not have the obligation of finding a replacement, and OSU could learn from current best practices in certain departments. In order to discourage departments from pressuring employees not to take sick leave, OSU suggested partnering with CGE to educate and train departments on the new policy. OSU has a system for tracking leave (Emp Center) that could be used for graduate employees. Currently, classified employees have a system for donating leave, but professional faculty (e.g. academic advisors) do not.
OSU’s HR bargaining team was open to the idea of a system was flexible and allowed either carryover of leave or payout, as well as centrally-funded system for paying leave. Like CGE, they were not sure how to deal with the issue of employees at a 0.49 FTE being compensated for covering work for a sick employee.
Sherm Bloomer, the Director of Budget & Fiscal Planning, would be present at the next session to answer questions and continue discussing issues about which HR was not certain.
Given the general sense of shared interests, we ended the session by agreeing that CGE could begin drafting contract language and bring it to the next session.
Session 2: Friday, August 21
CGE: Ashley Bromley, Thomas Morrill, and Laura Syron.
OSU: David Blake, Donna Chastain, Viki Dimick-Jackson, and Sherm Bloomer, the Director of Budget & Fiscal Planning.
CGE began by presenting our initial language around the areas of leave where we had greatest agreement with OSU Administration. We proposed:
- Leave Amount & Availability: each graduate employee will be granted 24 hrs per 1.0 FTE (so, 9.6 hours per term at 0.4 FTE) per term of sick leave. This leave will be accessible beginning the first day of the term.
- Tracking Sick Leave: graduate employees will use EmpCenter to track the number of hours of sick leave taken each term.
- Salary Rate for Substitute Work: graduate employees filling in for sick colleagues will be compensated at the rate of $21.12/hour, and this rate would increase with the minimum salary rate defied in our contract.
- Medical and Family Leave: adding the terms of the medical and family leave policy to the contract and making sick leave applicable to these longer leaves.
- Leave Amount & Availability: OSU was a bit surprised to see a rate above the legal minimum of 1 hr/30 hrs worked (so, 6.9 hours per term at 0.4 FTE), but we explained that we drafted our language so that those at average FTE (~0.35) had access to the average amount of leave needed according to the survey (~8 hrs/term). They haven’t responded concretely to this amount. They have agreed with our interest to have leave available at the beginning of the term.
- Leave Amount & Availability: agreement on using EmpCenter and tracking leave hourly.
- Salary Rate for Substitute Work: seeming agreement on using the minimum salary rate as an hourly rate for additional work. There continues to be some confusion about how additional work would be processed in payroll. Employees at 0.49 would need to be careful not to go over 0.50 FTE, but they would still have 5.2 hours/term that they could work before they hit 0.50 FTE.
- Medical and Family Leave: OSU General Counsel does not want the Medical & Family Leave policy in the contract. The OSU Bargaining Team couldn’t explain why but promised to report back at the next session. OSU did seem open to applying sick leave to longer absences, as faculty are also able to do so.
Though we had some agreement regarding our written proposal, much of the session actually dealt with disagreement over two related issues: central v. distributed funding and payout of leave.
Despite our conversation in Session 1 about our concerns that a lack of central funding would introduce incentives for departments to deny leave to graduate employees to protect already thin budgets, OSU began by stating that sick leave budgets would be administered at the department level. OSU prefers this model because it encourages department and college heads to be responsible for their budgets and recognize the real cost employing a graduate employee. We prefer centrally funded leave so that departments don’t have incentive to discourage the use of sick leave and so that the cost of leave is shared among the entire university instead of being concentrated in departments that may have greater need. Without central funding, departments and colleges will have to dig into already stretched budgets to pay for sick leave.
Granting payout of leave would also help alleviate concerns about disincentivizing the use of leave (since leave would be paid out fully for everyone), but OSU is reluctant to consider this option because other classes of employees do not receive payout and because it would increase the cost of providing sick leave. While OSU believes that education about the new right to sick leave would deal with these issues, we prefer to structure a system that doesn’t create these negative incentives. OSU agreed to go back and discuss creative solutions that may speak to these issues.
Next Bargaining Sessions:
Memorial Union Boardroom
Wednesday, August 26th, 9:30 – 11:30
Friday, August 28th, 2:00 – 4:00
Wednesday, September 2nd, 10:00 – 12:00
Friday, September 4th, 2:30 – 4:30
Be there to support the bargaining team and see what potential changes are coming to your contract!