Our statewide negotiating team met with the state’s negotiating team for the third time last week. During the first meeting, we discussed the ground rules for negotiations. During the second meeting we had final agreement on the ground rules. At that meeting, our team was prepared to exchange proposals, but the state’s team was not prepared to do so. Therefore, we withheld our proposals.
At last week’s (third) negotiating session, both sides presented non-economic proposals. The union presented 38 pages of proposals. The state and university/college presidents presented 18 pages of proposals. There are three general themes throughout the state’s/college presidents proposals.
- The university/college presidents want to move several negotiable items to local campus negotiations. At this time, locally negotiated agreements are only subject to advisory arbitration. That is, when a grievance is brought to arbitration, the administration only has to take the arbitrator’s decision under consideration. In contrast, items negotiated in the statewide master agreement are subject to binding arbitration, where the administration would be bound to follow the arbitrator’s decision. The motivation of the state and the university/college presidents appear to be quite transparent.
- The university/college presidents propose to make the professional staff at-will employees. The maximum multiyear contract would be reduced from the present five years to three years.
- Over the past several contracts, the university/college presidents have attempted to remove academic department chairs from our bargaining unit. That is, the administrations have proposed to appoint whomever they choose as department chairs, regardless of the candidate’s credentials or department faculty support. The union has continually rejected that proposal. This time, the presidents’ propose to accomplish this through the back door. They have proposed that department chairs become the first level of supervisor of professional staff within a given department. Such an agreement would invoke a Wilton conflict. According to the Winton decision, a supervisor cannot be in the same bargaining unit as the supervised employee.
New Jersey has an absentee governor whose sole agenda appears to become the Republican Party’s candidate for president. This suggests that this round of negotiations will not begin in earnest until that issue is resolved.