Oregon AFSCME's largest
local union — Local 328 at the Oregon Health & Science University in
Portland — has a new three-year contract.
Local 328 represents some
5,000 members in over 300 different classifications, which in itself always
sets up difficult bargaining. Added to that mix was a public announcement by
OHSU management that the University wanted to end the 6 percent PERS pickup
with no compensation offered in return. But following several months of tedious
negotiations followed by six difficult days of state mediation, the Local 328
Bargaining Team recently announced a successful resolution to all outstanding
issues, including the PERS issue. The local is currently conducting
informational meetings as part of the ratification process.
"We were able to secure good
across-the-board wage increases, a 1 percent bonus for all employees, no
cuts to health-insurance contributions, no unilateral move of hourly employees
to salaried-exempt status and an reasonable transition plan for PERS employees
that will carry them through the term of this contract," said Council 75
Staff Representative Diane Lovell, the senior rep for Local 328. "We feel very
good about this settlement."
"It was a hard fight," added
Local 328 President Matt Hilton. "We are grateful for our members who stepped
up, and also very appreciative of the Oregon AFSCME members from other area
locals who showed up and lent support at rallies and other events we staged
during our contract campaign. A lot of people came together for our shared vision.
"All things considered, we
got the best possible deal we could."
The PERS issue was big. Soon
after OHSU management announced its position, the Oregonian ran a lead editorial praising the University's moxie
and took the opportunity to take another round of potshots at PERS in general.
OHSU is unique as an employer in that it also offers its own University Pension
Plan (UPP), which roughly half of its employees choose over PERS. Against this
background Local 328 eventually bargained a retirement contributions and PERS
transition plan as follows:
- No changes until January 2014 — at that
time PERS employees will begin paying the 6 percent pick-up.
- Vested PERS employees will receive a 5 percent
PERS differential in January 2014. In July 2014, the PERS differential is
reduced to 3 percent.
- Non-vested PERS employees will receive a 6
percent PERS differential in January 2014, with the differential reduced
to 4 percent in July 2014.
- If non-vested PERS employees hired in 2010, 2011
or 2012 switch to UPP, OHSU will match their PERS Individual Account Plan
(IAP) contribution and pay it into UPP.
"This was a huge win for us,
moving the University from dropping the 6 percent pickup without compensation
to this transition plan," said Frank Vehafric, another longtime Council rep at
Local 328. "Additionally, not starting the process until 2014 gives members a
good time period to plan for the changes."
On health insurance members
will see no reduction in contributions. The agreement includes a 10 percent cap
on health insurance contributions in the event of premium increases, but
Vehafric notes OHSU's premiums have increased an average of 2 percent over the
last three years, and the bargaining team is confident that this cap will not
be a problem during the contract.
The University dropped a
take-back effort to move some 400 hourly employees to salaried-exempt status.
The new contract includes provisions for voluntary moves to salaried status,
and vacancies can be filled with salaried employees. There will also be no changes
in overtime calculation.
All employees covered by the
Local 328 contract will receive annual across-the-board wage increases as
follows: July 2012, 2.5 percent; July 2013, 1.5 percent; January 2014, 1
percent; and July 2014, 2.5 percent. Additionally, in July 2014 a 1 percent
lump-sum bonus will be paid to all bargaining-unit members (not just PERS
enrollees) who were employed at OHSU at the time of ratification and are still
employed at OHSU in July 2014.
"Resolving the PERS issue
was, no doubt, the most difficult part of bargaining, as well as the element of
the agreement the employer was most committed to," said Lovell. "In the end,
the union was able to bargain a significant PERS transition differential that
will span the life of the contract — and the union will have the
opportunity to try to continue or improve the PERS differential in the next
contract. Combined with what we received around insurance, wages, and dropping
the hourly vs. salaried-exempt issue, we believe we have a very good settlement
to recommend to Local 328 members."