Bargaining Update: January 13th, 2023
At Friday’s bargaining session, negotiations focused on Article 5 (Grievance Procedure) and Article 11 (Professional Development Fund).
Management’s team so far has consistently struck language from Article 5 that would ensure binding arbitration as a result of a grievance on all subjects except those involving discrimination, wages or termination of employment. And in the latter case of wrongful termination, “the arbitrator’s remedy shall be limited to compensating the PTL for salary lost from the effective date of termination through the end of the appointment from which the PTL was terminated.” In other words an adjunct who wins their grievance would not have to be rehired. They also refuse to allow PTLs to grieve over violations of university policy and administrative decisions as the rest of the faculty can. (Arbitrators’ decisions in these latter cases are advisory in the FT contract.)
Union Secretary Howie Swerdloff introduced the discussion of Article 5 by saying that PTLs are just “looking for parity” with full-time colleagues. He said, PTLs “need and deserve the same protections and opportunities for redress that [full-time faculty] need: [PTLs] need an enforceable contract.” In order for a contract to be properly enforced, an arbitrator’s decisions on negotiable subjects must be binding and ALL issues must be grievable. Since June, management’s counters to this article have repeatedly refused to agree to these principles.
When pressed to explain their reasoning, management pointed only to precedent in our prior contracts and refused to accept “change for change’s sake.” Lead PTL negotiator Bryan Sacks said the following in response to management’s refusal to acknowledge the need for binding arbitration: “Our approach to these subjects is not to necessarily start from what was previously agreed on but to start from a question of what can be achieved. We want to ask what the obstacles are to actually having parity. Just moving beyond what we had in the past is not good enough. We are trying to achieve a bargaining agreement based on principles we can warrant.”
President Amy Higer pointed to her own experience in working with aggrieved members, saying that if at the conclusion of a long grievance process PTLs were only guaranteed advisory arbitration, “they would never file.” Binding arbitration is honored in every other union contract at Rutgers. As our attorney Steve Weissman said, it is standard in most state contracts. Why are PTLs not treated the same?
In response, management simply acknowledged that each team understood the other’s position and declined to speak further on the subject.
In discussion of Article 11 (Professional Development Fund), the conversation was more productive. Through discussion, both teams moved closer to an understanding that could yield language around endorsement and approval for the fund the two sides could agree to. We also countered with a yearly funding proposal of $220,000/yr, up from their counter of $105,000/yr. Our current contract awards PTLs just $75,000/yr. Overall, there has been some progress on this article which makes both negotiating teams hopeful for a tentative agreement some time in the near future.
Finally, the PTL team proposed that in future counters on smaller articles such as Articles 5, 7, 8 and 11, we use a neutral term such as “Negotiations Unit Member” instead of Fractional NTT to ensure that we can reach a tentative agreement on at least these articles until management is ready to face the central issue of fractional appointments. We will still preserve the Fractional NTT nomenclature in our core articles about Salary and Advancement. This might allow for some forward motion (and save time for the negotiating teams, since management has consistently crossed out our use of “Fractional NTT” and replaced it with “PTL” and we have repeatedly reinserted it). Management’s team agreed to this suggestion.
Progress is being made on the Article 11 Professional Development Fund, and we could be reaching an agreement on that article soon. Additionally, the use of a neutral term in certain articles of the contract not related to our core salary proposal should allow for more movement in other articles being negotiated.
When discussing Article 5, management gave no substantive reason for refusing to agree to binding arbitration for all mandatorily negotiable subjects, thus denying PTLs an enforceable contract. It is clear that this refusal is not based on logic, but rather a preservation of the same status quo that has kept PTLs from parity with their full-time colleagues.
Currently, we have one more bargaining session scheduled, though our bargaining team is working to get more dates. We have one large bargaining session scheduled for January 27th, and will be sharing details to RSVP for that soon.