Updates on Proposed Contract

Vote on the Contract!

Please cast your vote, yes or no, on the tentative UUP contract. Not voting cedes the decision on the terms and conditions of your employment to someone else. The deadline for receiving ballots at the American Arbitration Association address is June 3. This means that your ballot should be mailed by Memorial Day (May 27) to allow adequate time for delivery. If you did not receive a ballot, call the American Arbitration Association at 800-529-5218, Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. A ballot will be sent to you the same day.

Updates on the Contract

Extra service pay. The deficit reduction program (furloughs) in the tentative contract will deduct a percentage from UUP member’s salary. UUP and the State have agreed that the percentage will be only on base salary. The percentage deduction will not include extra-service pay. Examples of extra service pay are stipends paid to department chairs, work performed outside one’s professional obligation, and summer salary for academics on 10-month appointments.

Non-Empire health insurance. UUP negotiates the percentage of the premium UUP-represented employees pay only for the Empire Plan. This percentage is increased in the tentative contract. For increases in non-Empire plan health insurance rates, see http://uupinfo.org/negotiations/pdf/UUPRatesHMOAdd1.pdf.

New actuarial tables. When we retire, unused sick leave can be converted into health insurance. The State has developed new actuarial tables to value this leave. The tables take into account longer life expectancy. Consequently the value of unused sick leave has decreased. Details can be found at http://uupinfo.org/negotiations/pdf/ActurialTable1.pdf
and http://uupinfo.org/negotiations/pdf/ActurialTable2.pdf. The new actuarial tables will go into effect no less than 30 days from the ratification of the contract.

“New to You” drugs. The tentative contract contains a provision for “New to You” drugs. Prescriptions for this type of drug are limited to an initial 30-day supply, to determine if the drug has the desired effect. If the drug is effective, a 90 day prescription, at a lower cost per day, can be issued. The list of “New to You” drugs can be found at http://uupinfo.org/negotiations/pdf/NewtoYouDrug.pdf.

Response to arguments against tentative contract. On March 13, 2013, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) issued a statement recommending a no vote on the proposed contract. The statement was subsequently reported to the full Faculty Senate at its meeting of May 7, as reported by the Binghamton University’s online publication, Inside (http://www.binghamton.edu/inside/index.php/inside/story/faculty-senate-approves-bylaw-changes-addresses-tentative-contract).

The response of the UUP Chapter to the FSEC statement in March was three-fold: a reminder to UUP-represented employees to attend a membership meeting fully explaining the contract; a response email to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee; and an invitation of the FSEC to meet with Phil Smith, statewide UUP President, and Jamie Dangler, Chief Negotiator for the tentative contract.

The FSEC statement has multiple issues associated with it, the most grievous of which is that the pronouncement by the FSEC on the terms and conditions of our employment was made without any consultation whatsoever with UUP. An analogous situation would be for UUP to urge faculty and professionals to ratify a curriculum for a new pharmacy school without working with the Faculty Senate.

The FSEC statement focuses on DSI to the exclusion of the other items in the tentative contract. No one is arguing that the tentative contract is a good contract. DSI on base would have been better than the tentative discretionary lump-sum payments, and discretionary lump-sum payments are better than no payments at all.

UUP never gave up in negotiations to convince the State to put DSI on base. The State would not budge, and SUNY, who sits at the table on the State’s side and who favored DSI on base for the reasons given by the FSEC statement, was also unable to get the State to budge. It just didn’t happen. UUP was unable to negotiate money on base to be used at the discretion of Management. Management must now seek another source of funds to increase the base salary to recognize what is, in their judgment, meritorious teaching, research, and service

It is not clear what the FSEC would have UUP do. It is easy to complain, but hard to propose. Perhaps the FSEC would have UUP go back to the bargaining table and negotiate hard for additional money to put DSI on base. This will not work.

Governor Cuomo does not care about UUP (or about CSEA, PEF, NYSCOPBA, or any other state union). He is relentlessly driven to suck a pound of flesh out of every unionized state employee. Those who think going back to the bargaining table will get more, especially if the NY State economy improves, are living in a fantasy world.

The Governor issued almost 5000 pink slips to PEF when they rejected their tentative contract to achieve his workforce savings. The new contract PEF ratified did not contain any new money, just money that was shifted around. The same thing is happening with unionized Thruway employees last month: 234 employees were laid off when contract negotiations bogged down so that Cuomo could book his workforce savings.

Cuomo would do the same thing with SUNY by pressuring Chancellor Zimpher and the SUNY Board of Trustees to fire all temporary UUP-represented employees, whose contract can be terminated at any time. If that did not generate his target savings, he would declare financial exigency and fire those who have term contracts. Cuomo wouldn’t do that to SUNY? He doesn’t care about SUNY; he cares only about budget savings. There is no way we are getting any additional money in the contract while Cuomo is Governor.

Assuming that we would not get anything more from the State by going back to the bargaining table, perhaps the FSEC wants UUP to shift money around, to take away from somewhere and put it into DSI on base. Where? Every UUP-represented employee will receive $1250 on base over the life of the contract. Some of this money could be moved into DSI on base, but why would members want guaranteed money taken away and given to administrators to dole out as administrators see fit? Historically, only about half of UUP-represented employees have received DSI at Binghamton University.

How about we reject the tentative contract because we are better off with no contract? True, we would not have the increase in health insurance premiums and the deficit reduction leave nibbling at our salaries. However, these reductions in our salary would continue to accrue.

We are eventually going to have to pay a higher fraction of the cost of health insurance. Every state union has had higher health insurance costs. A contract approved three years from now will most likely have retroactive health insurance premiums all the way back to when our contract expired (July 1, 2009), as all the other state unions have had to do.

We will also eventually have to make our contribution to Cuomo’s workforce savings. Given that all the other state unions that have settled have made their contribution, there is no way Cuomo is going to spare UUP. This contribution will be through temporary reduction in our salaries, whether now or in the future (assuming that Cuomo has not achieved his savings through firings and layoffs.)

Rejecting the contract because of the perception that no contract is better than the tentative contract only postpones the day of reckoning.
Rejection of the contract would be a public relations nightmare for UUP, Binghamton University and SUNY in general. We have three strikes against us already: we are government employees, we are unionized, and we work in academia. Vast swaths of the public see us as privileged workers who cannot be fired and who can live high off the hog at public expense for the rest of our lives. To reject the contract sends the message that we, who have so much, want more and don’t care about the overburdened taxpayers who have to provide it. It would be difficult to manage that perception.

The tentative contract is not a good contract but is the best contract UUP can get given the political and fiscal realities. Voting down the contract would not lead to any better contract. UUP Binghamton strongly urges a yes vote.

UUP Response to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee Statement of March 13, 2013

Faculty Senate Executive Committee


I am writing to respond to the action the Faculty Senate Executive Committee took urging a no vote on the tentative agreement between the State and UUP, as communicated by a post to the BU faculty listserv Wednesday, March 13.

While I recognize that the FSEC is an independent body that can do as it pleases, I am nonetheless consternated that the FSEC action was taken without consultation or input from UUP. In my years as UUP Binghamton Academic Vice President, and my past three years as President, I have tried to foster a collaborative atmosphere between UUP and Faculty Senate leadership, an atmosphere in which shared goals can be achieved by collective action. The unilateral action by the FSEC was not in this collaborative spirit.

The FSEC and I are on common ground in one respect: the tentative agreement, while containing some positives, leaves much to be desired. However, this by itself does not mean we should vote it down.

The action by the FSEC appears to have been taken without full knowledge of the tentative agreement and without historical context. The focus on the lack of DSI in the tentative agreement and its replacement by Presidential Discretionary Awards is myopic.

A bit of historical context: As will be discussed in more detail in the presentation by the Chief Negotiator in the UUP membership meeting April 2, the State opened “negotiations” by demanding we accept the same contract as CSEA and PEF: 0%, 0%, 0%, 2%, 2%; nine furlough days; and increase in health insurance premiums. This was not acceptable to UUP. After months of maintaining our stance, the State finally put more money on the table. This new money was a) all discretionary; and b) not on base.

After months more of hard negotiation, UUP finally got some of this new money on base. In its push to get some of this new money on base, UUP had at least three directions to go: put the new money on base through DSI, through across-the-board percentage increase, or through across-the-board lump sum. It chose the lump sum direction. This decision was based on the extensive input UUP solicited in the run up to negotiations.

The UUP Negotiations Team and the UUP Negotiations Committee (of which I am a member) accepted the current tentative contract after many months of hard bargaining. The Chief Negotiation, Jamie Dangler (who had been through a previous negotiation), the Associate Chief Negotiator Mike Smiles (who had been through five previous negotiations with the State), Dave Richter (former SUNY Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, who now is a consultant for UUP), and many other individuals whom I trust felt that we had wrung as much as we could out of the State, and further negotiations would be detrimental to the tentative agreement. I believe these people when they say this is the best contract we could get out of the State.

I am not clear on what basis the FSEC thinks that (presumably) UUP can get a better deal from the State if it goes back to the negotiating table.
It is somewhat misleading to say that the lack of discretionary money on base “means that, no matter how much faculty or professionals excel in teaching, research or service, their base salaries will be exactly the same as if they did nothing.” The Administration has the authority to increase anyone’s salary by any amount for any reason. In Labor-Management speak, UUP was unable to negotiate money on base to be used at the discretion of Management. Management must now seek another source of funds to increase the base salary to recognize what is, in their judgment, meritorious teaching, research, and service.

There are downsides to not ratifying the contract. One obvious downside is that dental and vision benefits are funded through the contract. Replenishment of these funds ended with the end of our last contract. UUP has managed the funds well enough to tide us over between contracts, but eventually these funds will dry up without a new contract, leaving us without dental and vision benefits. Another downside is that we currently do not have Individual Development Awards, which funded the professional development of UUP-represented employees. We would continue not to have these awards without a contract.

I am convinced that this is the best tentative contract we can obtain given the political realities. I urge the FSEC to encourage its members and its constituency to attend the UUP membership meeting on April 2, 3:30 – 5:00, Old Union Hall, where the Chief Negotiator will present comprehensive information on the contract and its implications.

Jim Dix
President, UUP Binghamton Chapter