Thursday, December 12, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Members of the SEIU chapter at Western Oregon University, local 082, in Monmouth gather Aug. 27 at the corner of Monmouth Avenue and Jackson Street to garner support from students and passers-by. The union is scheduled to take a strike vote on Tuesday. The next bargaining session is scheduled Sept. 13-14.
September 03, 2013
MONMOUTH -- After months of bargaining meetings with the Oregon University System, members of Western Oregon University's classified staff union meet for a strike vote Tuesday.
Meetings between OUS representatives and Service Employees International Union Local 503 -- the union representing classified staff at Oregon's seven public universities -- began more than six months ago.
The first two-day meeting was an historic one with both sides tentatively agreeing to multiple articles of the contract, but other issues then took the stage, negotiations stalled and an impasse was declared at the Aug. 22-23 meeting.
"We are hoping, of course, there will be no need for such a vote to happen," Jackson Stalley, president of WOU chapter 082, said. "But what we are being offered at the bargaining table forces us into this position."
Other campuses across OUS have strike votes scheduled around the same time. Because of SEIU 503's structure, a majority of staff at all universities must agree on a strike for one to take place.
Staff are legally obligated to wait 10 days to strike after a vote takes place, meaning staff across OUS could go on strike a week before fall term begins.
Bargaining teams from SEIU and OUS meet again Sept. 13-14, which could mitigate the threat of a strike if both parties are able to come to an agreement.
However, the bumpy nature of this negotiating process has left some staff in doubt as to whether an agreement is imminent.
"I kind of wonder if they (OUS) are waiting to see how much strike support we have," Angie Barry, WOU bargaining team member, said. "Last time (two years ago) we had a strike vote, and they settled minutes before the strike vote. This time we won't even meet before the strike vote."
Negotiations stalled when the "Big 3" -- layoff, contracting out and overtime -- were brought to the forefront.
The overtime issue centered on certain employees, mainly Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempt employees, not receiving compensatory time after a full eight-hour day under the OUS plan.
When contracting out, OUS offered that if employees were dismissed because of contracting out, they would be hired by the contractor.
OUS also maintained that if a union plan offered greater savings than contracting out, it would move forward with the union plan.
Staff disagreed with the OUS layoff plan that retained bumping rights -- when a senior employee's job is eliminated and "bumps" a less senior employee out of their job -- but called for the union to assist in the process by educating members on the contract and process.
Even with the disagreements, looming strike vote and stalled negotiations, OUS Interim Chancellor Melody Rose is upbeat that the two parties can come to a final agreement at the Sept. 13-14 meeting.
"We are continuing to bargain and continue to work toward a settlement," Rose said. "We remain very hopeful that we're going to be able to settle this contract at the table. There are a lot of interests at stake and I have every faith that we're going to be able to get to an amicable solution."