It has been a rollercoaster week for about 795 classified staff from Washington State University, with it all ending on a happy note.
First the Washington Federation of State Employees “disclaimed interest” in three bargaining units, leaving them without representation and under the state’s Civil Service jurisdiction. The following day, WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said the university would fund pay raises for those who were newly nonrepresented Civil Service employees.
The Washington Federation of State Employees surprised university administrators and employees on April 27, when it announced during the course of a conference call with the state Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) that WFSE was “disclaiming interest” in three of the WSU bargaining units it represents.
WFSE dropped its representation of:
• bargaining unit 2, which includes 335 nonsupervisory service employees
• bargaining unit 9, which includes 385 administrative, clerical and office support services employees
• bargaining unit 10, which includes 75 administrative, clerical and office support services supervisors
These three bargaining units were part of six bargaining units (also including units 2, services supervisors; 3, skilled trades; and 5, library staff) that filed petitions on March 16 with PERC to be decertified.
The conference call included representatives from the state’s PERC, WSU administration, WFSE, and employees leading the decertification effort. The purpose of the telephone meeting was to set dates for requested decertification elections. At the outset of the call, WFSE announced it had disclaimed the three units.
PERC is still working to set official dates for decertification elections for bargaining unit 5 (library staff, with 43 employees) and bargaining unit 2 (services supervisors, with 12 employees). Tentative dates for the mail-in balloting are May 3-24, although PERC must first decide whether it agrees with the WFSE’s argument that the elections cannot be held because of the unfair labor practice charge that the WFSE filed against the University last fall.
Bargaining unit 3 (skilled labor, with 224 employees), which also petitioned for decertification, was told by PERC several weeks ago that its request was not valid because it had petitioned and held a decertification election last spring. According to state regulation the unit was barred from submitting a decertification petition prior to June 15, 2005.
When asked what WFSE’s letters “disclaiming” the units meant to employees, Glenn Frye, WSU’s labor relations officer said, “We’re still trying to figure that out. We do know for sure that the Federation is no longer representing bargaining units 2 (nonsupervisors), 9 and 10. And, effective immediately, the employees in those units became Civil Service employees, and will be covered under the state’s new Civil Service rules.”
Beyond that, Frye said, “there are a multitude of possible implications, and WSU is working with the Office of Fiscal Management and the Department of Personnel to explore the details” and consider what can be done regarding salary increase issues.
Part of the problem is that WFSE’s announcement to disclaim the units came after the state Legislature had approved the operating budget and adjourned. During the legislative session, the Legislature provided WSU with funding to support salary increases for WFSE bargaining units 1, 4, 5 and 11. However, the Legislature provided no money for salary increases for any of the other WFSE bargaining units.
Nonrepresented state employees, who are under the Civil Service system were provided with a 3.2 percent salary increase, effective Sept. 1, 2005, and a 1.6 percent increase effective for the period beginning Sept. 1, 2006 and ending July 1, 2007.
Before it is final, however, the state budget must be approved by Gov. Christine Gregoire.
On Thursday, the big question was: Could WSU employees from the three disclaimed units receive the same pay raises as other nonrepresented Civil Service Employees?
“This is all new territory,” said Steve Desoer, WSU director of Human Resource Services, “we’re going down a road that no one has been before.”
However, by the end of the Thursday, some of the unknowns were solved.
In his Quarterly Update, Rawlins stated: “We have been in touch with the Governor’s Office and they are willing to consider a supplemental budget request to fund raises for our classified employees in the three bargaining units just disclaimed by the WFSE and so now nonrepresented. In the interim, we will use temporary funds to cover these raises.”
For additional information on pay increases, go to http://www.ir.wsu.edu/budget/docs/finalbudgetsalaryincreases.pdf