Today: got administration counters to our proposals on workload (general issue of how many courses/credits taught make you full time, part time, etc.) and on leaves of absence (paid and unpaid: vacation, bereavement, short term and long term disability, military service, etc.), and on transportation issues.
LEAVES OF ABSENCE. They had indicated last Thursday general agreement with our leave proposal, which basically asks that current policies in the Faculty Handbook be maintained. After some negotiating about how to say this (we want to specify the Faculty Handbook in effect as of next week; why next week you ask? Because they are finalizing some ongoing revisions regarding when you can take a leave for the funeral of “Other Eligible Individuals”). But basically we got what we wanted: preserving the generous MSU benefits for eligible employees. Given the slow pace of negotiations and current atmosphere of cutbacks, we felt this is an achievement.
WORKLOAD. We had presented a workload proposal that asks that MSU preserve whatever workload arrangements currently exist. We acknowledge the diversity of practices across MSU so we do not impose any rigid formula. The basic idea instead is to avoid units unilaterally increasing our members’ workload using the excuse of budget cutbacks—we’ve already seen examples of this.
TRANSPORTATION. Last Thursday we had also discussed transportation issues. Two of our requests we will not get. For many reasons, MSU is unable to deduct monthly parking fees automatically (and using pre-tax dollars) from all members’ paychecks. Similarly, MSU will not provide free bus passes to use the campus buses (run by CATA) to employees hired at less than 50%. Strangely, it seems some individuals do get these benefits and it is not always clear if they are eligible, but the administration at least is not interested in taking these away from them. However, we did get language stating that mileage reimbursement must follow guidelines laid out in the MSU business procedures manual; it seems in some cases members’ supervisors were not following these.
WHAT'S NEXT? We will put together a counter-counter proposal on workload. Also, some of our bargaining team members will informally discuss our key issue, an appointments system, with some of their members. We found that these informal discussions help each side better understand the other side’s concerns.
NOT A GOOD SIGN: Disturbingly, the administration asked that we schedule additional bargaining days after our original last day of May 6. We had offered to meet on additional days next week but they seem to want to prolong negotiations into the weeks after spring term ends--which is not a good time for us since many members will be gone.