Union contract rejected; WSU requests classified raises

In the wake of Wednesday’s vote in which employees rejected (401-426) a proposed union contract between the Washington Federation of State Employees and Washington State University, administrators have:* rebuked union allegations of unfair labor practices

* filed a three-pronged request with the state for salary increases for all classified staff (union and nonunion)

* called for the Washington Federation for State Employees to return to the bargaining table

The proposed union contract between WFSE and WSU was rejected (401-426) by employees who are covered by that bargaining agreement, according to Tim Welch, director of public affairs for WFSE. However, the union contends the vote was unfair and that it is planning to file an “unfair labor practice complaint” against the university, and is calling for a revote.

“We believe there was gross inappropriate management interference in the vote,” said Welch, and “reject the results of the vote.”

“Under the new bargaining system, once both sides reach a (proposed contract) agreement, it is the obligation of both sides to urge ratification of the agreement … We believe there were management actions that were inappropriate and gave some folks the impression that management felt they should reject the contract … Suffice it to say that we will ask the Public Employment Relations Commission in Olympia, which  overseas labor practices in Washington,” to investigate and make a ruling.

WSU administrators strongly disagree. Steve DeSoer, director of Human Resource Services, said, “The university is surprised by the allegations but has had no official word from the union regarding their concerns. However, the university was extremely impressed with the large number of employees who turned out to vote on this critical issue.”

The union’s call for a revote, Welch said, is separate from its filing for an unfair labor practice. “Our goal is to get a full and fair contract ratification vote, free of university/management interference.”

Welch said that the proposed contract received support in many WSU locations around the state, but that the percentage of votes to reject the contract in Pullman outweighed that. He also pointed in comparison to other WFSE contracts with universities that were approved statewide.
This creates an unusual situation, in that the Legislature requires all state agencies and unions to have their contracts to the Office of Financial Management by Oct. 1. Consequently, there was no time to conduct another election and meet that deadline.

The university will submit its budget requirements for salary and benefits for all classified employees to the governor’s office today, Friday, Oct. 1. Karl Boehmke, WSU executive budget director, said the budget request will have three parts:
* one based upon the new WSU Police Guild contract
* a second based on the proposed WFSE contract agreement (even though its status is in doubt)
* a third request for salary increases for all other classified employees not covered by a bargaining unit agreement. Similar to the proposed WFSE contract, WSU will ask for a 3.2 percent raise in base pay effective July 1, 2005, and a 2 percent one-time, lump sum payment on July 1, 2006.
Although the WFSE contract has not been ratified, Boehmke said the university will submit the contract and its figures for salary increases and benefits to the Office of Financial Management in an attempt to meet the October 1 deadline for filing such documents.

“We agreed upon those figures in our negotiations and we want to do everything we can to meet the statutory deadline so that pay increases for our employees can be included in the budget submitted to the Legislature,” said Rich Heath, associate vice president of administration and human resources, “even though that contract was rejected, it may be up for another vote.

The total count was reported by WFSE to the university to show:
* 426 votes to reject

* 401 votes to approve

* 75 additional ballots cast by employees whose names were not on the list of eligible voters (These ballots were kept and counted separately, and are not included in the yes or no tallies above).

* 23 challenged votes (also separate from the tallies above).

Thursday morning, before the election results were available, Washington State University’s Board of Regents gave President V. Lane Rawlins the authority to approve the proposed union contract between the Washington Federation of State Employees and WSU, if Wednesday’s employee election results in ratification.

The Board of Regents also approved a new union contract with WSU’s Police Guild. That contract calls for a 3.2 percent salary base increase on July 1, 2005, and a 2.9 percent one-time, lump-sum payment on July 1, 2006.

Major items proposed in the contract with the WFSE include:

* A wage increase in base pay of 3.2 percent effective July 1, 2005, and a 2.0 percent, one-time, lump-sum payment effective July 1, 2006.

* Stabilization of the employee premium share of health care benefits, for the first time since 1995, at 12 percent.

* As a condition of continued employment, all employees working in a covered position  will be required to pay for the added costs of arbitration and contract administration through union membership dues or equivalent fees paid to the union. WFSE dues are currently 1.37% to a maximum of $53.29 per month.

* Continuation of existing job classification and pay system for employees covered by this contract. In short, this means this group will not be switching to the new civil service classification and pay structure, but will maintain the current system.

* Elimination of mandatory performance appraisals.

* Leave accruals and holidays are preserved without change.

* A two-year moratorium on competitive contracting.

What caused the delay?

When the regents asked what issues delayed the negotiations and the vote on the proposed WFSE/WSU contract, Rawlins pointed to two major issues: establishment of a union security clause requiring all employees covered under the agreement to pay union dues or fees, and establishment of rules regarding layoff and bumping rights.

He noted that about 200 out of approximately 1,300 employees under the WFSE bargaining agreement currently pay union dues. So, the creation of a union security clause in the contract would represent a “major change for a majority of our employees.”

Most other universities in the state, Rawlins said, have a union security clause in their new contracts. In addition, the 3.2 percent increase in base pay in 2005 is the same as that offered in the state’s general agency contract, which applies to nonacademic classified employees statewide.

Additional information and points of contact are available on the WFSE website http://www.wfse.org, the WFSE Local 1066 website http://www.wfse.org/local1066, and the WSU HRS/Labor Relations website http://www.hrs.wsu.edu.

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