Session 3: Wednesday, August 26th

In attendance:
CGE: Ashley Bromley, Thomas Morrill, Nikki Wiseman, and Laura Syron.
OSU:  David Blake, Donna Chastain, Viki Dimick-Jackson, and Sherm Bloomer.

OSU began by addressing two issues from the previous session: 1.) the inclusion of medical and family leave language in the contract, and 2.) Sherm Bloomer’s discussion of the funding model for paid sick leave.

 

(1) Medical and Family Leave

OSU stated that because the Family and Medical Leave Act is not a requirement for the Graduate Employee population, the “Medical Family Leave” policy for Graduate Employees does not need to be included in the contract. Originally, OSU had legal and practical concerns about including this language in the contract, and now they believe that if language were placed in the contract it would limit everyone’s ability to make changes when needed. They added that they did not agree to open the Letter of Agreement on Medical Family Leave as a part of impact bargaining.

CGE caucused at this point. Once the session began again, CGE stated its interest in needing clarification about how paid sick leave would interact with Medical Family Leave.

OSU responded that Graduate Employees would be entitled to both paid sick leave and Medical Family Leave during prolonged leaves. There was uncertainty surrounding leave running concurrently versus taking paid sick leave before utilizing Medical Family Leave. CGE brought up the point that without explicit wording in the policy and contract, department heads and supervisors will interpret the usage of the benefits differently. Therefore, CGE stated that there needs to be explicit contract language explaining how the two types of leave interact.

OSU and CGE agreed that they had a joint interest in creating simple, explicit language that addresses how paid sick leave and Medical Family Leave would interact.

CGE then brought up a question concerning how student status could affect Graduate Employees’ usage of paid sick leave. For example, a Graduate Employee might need to take off an entire term and use paid sick leave to cover a portion of that time, but they will not be enrolled as a student (the cost of enrollment would likely far exceed the benefit of using accrued paid sick leave). OSU responded that each situation is unique, so the issue is complex, and that in the past the Graduate School has worked closely with Graduate Employees to help them navigate prolonged leave. OSU also brought up the issue of leave being available under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Once again, CGE brought up the interest of having clear, explicit language about how the types of leave interact that is easily understandable to Graduate Employees. OSU said they would look into this issue and address it at a later session.  They proposed drafting language that would include links to additional policies regarding leave so that all relevant information would be easily accessible.

 

(2) Funding Model for Paid Sick Leave

At earlier sessions, CGE had expressed concern that a lack of central funding would introduce incentives for departments to deny leave to Graduate Employees to protect already thin budgets.

Sherm Bloomer was briefly in attendance to address this issue. He stated that OSU requires units to manage costs within their budgets and that this always requires choices. When a new policy arises, such as paid sick leave, OSU does not immediately change their budgeting model or directly fund the new policy. At this point, they do not know what the true cost of paid sick leave will be. Sherm stated that they predict it will cost around 1 million dollars if the paid sick leave benefit is fully utilized (or fully paid out).

CGE again stated that this structural model of not providing departments with centralized (and thus protected) funds for paying for newly introduced benefits creates a conflict of interest for the departments. Sherm responded that departments are expected to honor entitlements.

CGE asked what would happen if half-way through the first year this new benefit the costs were more than anticipated and departments had a difficult time managing the cost.  Would central funding be provided to help them then? Sherm responded that after the first year, they will have a better idea of usage and that 3 to 5 years of data provides a better estimate.

 

(3) Additional Issues: Payout and “Flexing” Work Hours

The OSU Bargaining Team stated that the university has no compelling interest in a payout option for unused sick leave for Graduate Employees. OSU does not pay out sick leave to other employees, and they want treatment to be equitable across employee classes. Philosophically, the OSU Bargaining Team believes that the goal of the new legislation is for people to utilize paid sick leave when it is needed without losing money due to lost work hours (i.e., go home and recuperate when sick) rather than working through sickness and receiving a payout. The OSU Bargaining Team acknowledged that people with professional schedules (such as faculty and Graduate Employees) often “flex” their time to accommodate illness.  CGE pointed out that many Graduate Employees (especially RAs) have no choice but to flex their schedule, so their leave will remain unpaid (as they’ll have to make up the time) unless there is some option for payout.

OSU wrapped up the session by stating that they were thinking of “creative solutions” to deal with issues and that they would have a meeting with the OSU Administration on Tuesday, September 1st in order to confirm that these solutions would be feasible.

 

Session 4: Friday, August 29th

In attendance:
CGE: Ashley Bromley, Thomas Morrill, Nikki Wiseman, and Laura Syron.
OSU: David Blake, Donna Chastain, Viki Dimick-Jackson, and Erin Frost, Employee & Labor Relations Officer.

As this was the last session before OSU’s bargaining team met with higher administration, CGE  opened by clarifying three of our main interests:

 

CGE Interest 1: All Graduate Employees benefit from paid sick leave.

In certain instances, Graduate Research Assistants and Graduate Teaching Assistants act as their own “substitutes” when they are sick because they are the only person qualified to make up the missed work once they are well again.

CGE proposed two potential solutions that would allow paid sick leave to benefit Graduate employees in these situations:

(1) Graduate Employees have the option to log hours as their own substitute.

(2) Partial payout of unused sick leave. For example, Graduate Employees might be most likely to flex their time around illness and not log hours into the University’s paid sick leave system. However, such Graduate Employees would receive a reduced payout for their unused sick leave.

The OSU Bargaining team responded with a question about how Graduate Employees at .49 FTE would be compensated to act as their own substitutes. This is an ongoing issue.

The OSU Bargaining team then brought up the issue of workers with professional schedules flexing their time around illness and having the ability to take a day off, but making up the missed work at a later time. OSU stated that flex time can occur by mutual agreement between the Graduate Employee and supervisor and it must not be compelled. OSU and CGE agreed that in some instances a Graduate Employee may determine that they prefer to flex their time rather than use their paid sick leave, especially if they wish to accrue paid sick leave and use it for prolonged leave (surgery, parental leave for new child, etc.).

CGE recognized that under the University’s current budgeting structure and philosophy (departments managing limited budgets rather than centralized funding for benefits), full payout for unused sick leave is 1.) not something OSU will accept and 2.) could potentially create negative consequences to Departments and therefore to Graduate Employees. The OSU Bargaining Team asked what CGE’s proposed partial payout percentage would be – 50%? CGE responded that we did not have a certain number in mind yet, but simply that its main interest to have this policy work for everyone, so 1% would not be meaningful and 100% would not be feasible.

 

CGE Interest 2: Clarify the interaction of paid sick leave with Family Medical Leave and other types of long-term leave.

CGE has an interest in a policy that does not prohibit Graduate Employees from utilizing both their paid sick leave and other forms of leave. The discussion surrounding this issue has been thin. The OSU Bargaining Team needs to address how the interruption of student and employee status while on Medical & Family Leave affects the use of paid sick leave during these extended leaves. CGE has an interest in the language explaining this benefit being as explicit and clear as possible for Graduate Employees who are experiencing a stressful life event.

 

CGE Interest 3: Donation of leave.

A large number of respondents to CGE’s survey stated that the ability to donate leave is important to them. OSU has stated that, in the event of prolonged leave for serious health issues, faculty can borrow leave time against their future and employees under SEIU can donate leave time to fellow employees. If OSU has an interest in treating different classes of employees equitably, then CGE believes that a policy allowing Graduate Employees to donate leave to one another is in OSU’s interest as well.

Following CGE’s presentation, OSU asked to caucus, using the time to review our interests in relation to their prepared position.

OSU’s Bargaining Team has reviewed the Senate Bill language and proposed its minimum requirements as contract language. They acknowledged that it is a jumping-off point and does not cover all of CGE’s interests.

The OSU Bargaining Team incorporated front-loading of paid sick leave (accrual available at the beginning of each academic term), which CGE viewed as positive.

However, many issues that had been discussed during earlier sessions were not adequately addressed.

By proposing the legal minimum for the rate of sick leave accrual and the maximum accrual per year, the OSU Bargaining Team had not taken into consideration CGE’s earlier proposals from the previous week of bargaining. OSU’s proposed language surrounding how paid sick leave would interact with Family Medical Leave was extremely minimal and inadequate. OSU recognized this deficiency and said that they would make revisions to the next draft to clarify and expand the language.

Before the OSU Bargaining Team’s meeting with OSU Administrators on Tuesday, September 1st, CGE stated that it would provide OSU with a list of its interests and its responses to the draft policy language.

 

Additional bargaining sessions may be necessary to resolve all issues and the schedule will be updated.

 

Next bargaining sessions:

Memorial Union Boardroom

Wednesday, September 2nd, 10:00 – 12:00
Thursday, September 3rd, 9:00 – 11:00
Friday, September 11th, 8-10
Wednesday, September 16th, 8:00 – 10:00
Tuesday, September, 22nd, 3:00 – 5:00
Friday, September 25th, 2:00 – 4:00
Friday, October 2nd, 2:00 – 4:00

 

Be there to support the Bargaining Team and see what potential changes are coming to your contract!

 

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