LCCEA Bargaining Update 11/21/13: College not responding, and why

LCC Faculty Colleagues,

First, your Bargaining Team would like to thank the many faculty members who responded to the Administration’s communication today, for your public demonstration of your faith in your Bargaining Team, and your requesting respect for the Bargaining process.  The Administration’s communication was especially surprising, as just yesterday representatives of our team met with their team at their request, where they expressed an earnest interest in working toward an agreement, at the table, and as respectfully as possible, only to be blindsided by their obvious attempt to circumvent bargaining by going directly to the faculty, without so much as the courtesy of a heads up they were planning on doing so.  Their “self defense”, as Jim O’Brien’s email rightly foresaw, is likely that our request that faculty members ask the President and Board Chair to return their team to the table constituted a similar act; the actual equivalent, of course, would be for our team to send a detailed description and analysis of bargaining to all of the Board and Administration members, a far cry from asking the Board Chair and President to return their team to the table.  We can only hope that the faculty’s instantaneous rejection of the Administration’s attempt to go around your elected representatives will encourage them to rethink such tactics in the future, and to come to the table to bargain in earnest with your representatives.

To that point, we did meet with their team today, but there was little “earnestness” in their actions at the start of the meeting, despite the very positive “side bar” yesterday.  Although we had provided the last counterproposal two weeks ago, once again the Administration started the meeting by asking us to modify our own proposal, essentially to bargain with ourselves.  We refused, and asked that they provide a counterproposal for us to respond to.  Eventually they modified one part of one component of their proposal: that we accept their proposal that employees pick up 3.82% of the insurance rate hike this year, just delay the pick up until March 1, 2014.  After caucusing, we provided a counterproposal in which we would agree to that proposal, provided that it is April 1, and that the College accept our proposed language for next year in which the College and employees would split insurance rate hikes, with no change to our cost neutrality language, slightly modifying the “stop loss” in a way that benefits the employer, and increasing the employer contribution for part-time faculty needing family insurance.  Together that proposal would still save the College significant money by modifying our current insurance language, which provides that the College pick up the first 10 percentage points of any renewal rate hikes before we split any higher increases, limited by the current “stop loss” and “cost neutrality” language.  We also linked our response to their “supposal” to a similar supposal in order to try to reach a broader partial agreement: delaying the onset of our proposed half-step at the top of the salary schedules until January 1, 2014.  After caucusing, the College returned only to again ask us to modify our overall proposal, and only after we pressed for a response did they directly respond to our supposal, by simply “rejecting” it.

We also proposed that we try to make progress by breaking up the various proposals into small groups and seek to reach agreement on them as such, especially important since the College has yet to respond substantively to any of our non-economic proposals (they received them in April, and appear only to have read them for the first time in the last few weeks).  The College agreed to try that, and we will begin the work next week, with the next formal bargaining meeting scheduled for tentatively Thursday December 5th.

Why is there no progress on economic matters when two weeks ago it seems we’d agreed on the total cost of the bargain?

[The following is a bit long and detailed, but if you want to know why the economic aspects of our negotiations have stalled, we believe this explains it]

Despite the Administration’s refusal to directly answer our questions and analysis on this, it appears that the key source of the hang up on economic issues is that the College Board approved a “bargaining parameter” for all three employee groups (faculty, classified, managers) based upon an assumption of 1.7% COLAs, steps for all due them, and the College picking up the first 7.4% of insurance hikes, which was reported to cost “$3 million.” Your Team has said all along that we would live with the equivalent cost of the “1.7% COLA/steps for all due them/ 7.4% insurance hike,” recognizing the exact distribution of the equivalent dollars would need to be bargained.

So what’s the problem?  Simple:  our proposal is consistent with those figures, but the college’s isn’t.  And yet their proposal IS consistent with the ‘faculty share’ of the $3m.  How can both of these facts be logically consistent?  The best we can determine is that the $3m figure that was calculated by the College didn’t include the resulting “direct OPE costs” while they now insist that our proposal accounts for it.  We’ve provided them the calculations (attached), using their own numbers, to show that the 1.7%/steps/7.4% for all three groups costs just over $3m before adding in “direct OPE,” which would cost an additional $.6m or so.  The College team has refused to confirm or disconfirm our analysis, despite our repeated requests.  They simply claim that “OPE was included” while ignoring the evidence that it couldn’t have been, and then to try to change the subject quickly.

The problem this presents is that the Board of Education likely believes they have authorized funding allowing the equivalent of 1.7%/steps/7.4%, while the College isn’t actually offering it.  The College says they “can’t go over the parameter,”  but they’re not offering the equivalent of the components we agreed to live with.  All we can think to do at this point is to ask you to ask the College to either correct our analysis of the OPE question, or to correct theirs.  Either 1.7% COLA/steps/7.4% insurance for the three groups using the spring data adds up to $3m before adding direct OPE, or it adds up to approximately $2.4m, and adding in the direct OPE of 25% raises that to $3m.  The attached table shows it’s $3m before direct OPE, so requiring us to account for it now would mean we wouldn’t receive the equivalent of the parameters.

Dennis Carr, chair of the College team, asked us just two weeks ago if we would “live with the Bargaining Allowance,” framing it as a matter of integrity for us since we’d “publicly said” we would.  We responded that “we’ve always said we’d live with the equivalent of 1.7%/steps/7.4%, we will live with it, and we already are,” and provided them the data demonstrating that.  If it’s a matter of integrity, as they framed it, then they should respond to our calculations on the OPE question, and either demonstrate our analysis using their data is somehow faulty, or own up to their not including it in the figures this spring, and present that to the Board and ask that they approve the corrected aggregate figure.  Instead, they’re insisting that we reduce our proposal to cover the cost of their error.  While we can understand that mistakes and miscommunications happen, people who make them should take responsibility for them, not demand that others (literally) pay for them.

While there are some other differences in how we estimate the costs of some items (e.g. steps), and the College wants to take the permanent savings from shifting insurance costs onto employees and only provide them temporarily back via one-time ‘stipends’, the real blockage is that the equivalent of the approved parameters (1.7% COLA/steps/7.4% insurance) isn’t being offered, apparently because they weren’t included in the College’s calculations this spring, and now the College insists we pay for that.  Seem reasonable to anyone?

Why is there no progress on non-economic issues?

This one is easy and much shorter:  we have no idea, as the College representatives haven’t provided a single substantive response to any of our proposals, and won’t provide a single reason why.  Since we could only engage in conjecture, we’ll suggest instead that you respond to Dennis Carr’s email today, and ask “why won’t you bargain in good faith on the Association’s non-economic proposals?”

All for now.  Thank you again for your continued and encouraging support.

Your Bargaining Team,
Dean Bergen
Polina Kroik
Adrienne Mitchell
Jim Salt
Dan Welton

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