What's Really Happening - 2005/05/11

 

 

What's Really Happening

Columbus State Education Association Newsletter of May 11, 2005

NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE

Your Negotiating Team and representatives of the administration tentatively agreed to another contract article in talks last week. CSEA anticipates counter-proposals Thursday (5/12) to several of our proposals, most notably aspects of faculty workload, including course selection, lead instructor/program coordinator responsibilities, re-scheduling of office hours, and use of Mission & Learning Support time.

Administration representatives to date have been less willing to bargain than we had hoped. Based on administration talk about a new and more trusting relationship, CSEA had anticipated a greater openness to real bargaining that would include serious give-and-take. Although some issues led to relatively quick agreement, other efforts to offer concessions in one area in exchange for improvements in another have met resistance.

Another surprising aspect of bargaining has been the administration's insistence-from the first day of talks-on scheduling a mediator and agreeing on a fact-finder. This suggests that College may hold a hard line as more serious issues come up and, as it did in talks two years ago, count on an outside party (rather than serious negotiating) to settle the difficult issues. We'll see.

HEALTH CARE OPEN FORUMS

The administration will present a series of forums to explain its intended changes in health care coverage next week. The forums will take place on the following days/times and in the following locations: Monday, 5/16, 1-2 PM in Nestor Seminar C; Tuesday, 5/17, 1-2 PM and again from 3-4 PM in NH Seminar D; and Wednesday, 5/18, 9-10 AM and again from 2-3 PM in Nestor Seminar C.

There will be a change of insurance carriers from Medical Mutual to United Health Care, which has provided coverage to CSCC in the past. Administration representatives are also expected to discuss options in health care coverage by UHC. It appears that most options come down to a simple position on the administration's part: you will have to accept greater risk and increased deductibles or pay more for health insurance.

ON THE ISSUE OF PAYING MORE FOR HEALTH CARE

The administration has apparently drawn up talking points, because different administrators-the President, the VP of Human Resources, the Provost-are making the same threats in various gatherings over the past two months. The line is direct: "If employees want raises, they'll have to accept greater insurance costs." According to the President, the Board of Trustees is unwilling to spend more this year on health insurance than it spent last year. That is, the Board expects you to eat part of your raise by funding a portion of its share of health care.

This is an interesting position. It's true that enrollment has declined (at least partially due to adopting and implementing a badly designed computer system at a cost that now exceeds $10 million). This decline resulted in a reduced state instructional allocation. Yet it's important to remember that, during the last initial contract negotiations, the College shuffled money from Unallocated Funds designations to "Special Projects" and related accounts that would make it appear that the College lacked the money to be able to afford a salary schedule proposed by CSEA. A neutral fact finder saw through this shell game and, while giving the College virtually everything it asked for, found that the College could afford the proposed salary schedule. Even having won 95% of the issues submitted to the fact finder, the Board of Trustees rejected his findings and forced faculty to consider a work stoppage to get a fair contract.

Any shift in health care will affect staff even more than it affects faculty. Some staff employees will clearly not be able to absorb this proposed increase. In fact, for some staff the increase in health care costs will actually exceed any raises (unless those raises equal the 8% raise the President received earlier this year.

The College has mounted a propaganda campaign to make all employees believe that the College is in serious financial trouble. The College's own audits show otherwise. As the graph below shows, the College's cash reserves and investments have actually continued to increase over the past several years. In addition, the Board regularly approves a contingency fund of several million dollars in each annual budget. In other words, the College-very prudently, we believe-builds a cushion into every budget, and when these contingency funds are not used, they roll over into cash reserves.

One final thing: CSEA is examining the College's expenses for the past several years. Our preliminary findings suggest that, as a percentage of total budget, health care costs have not increased significantly (and may have actually declined). In other words, as all other costs increase, the Board believes that its health care costs should remain the same.

This is an Alfred E. Neumann "What, me worry?" approach to management: the College offers a "raise" of, say, 4%, but then takes back part of it because it wants health care costs to stay the same; the raise is offered with one hand and taken back with the other. In that way, the Board and the administration can shift some of their management responsibility to you (calling the shift "an option" that, like an offer from a Mafia don, you can't refuse).

This is bogus terminology. It's bogus management. It's bogus treatment. The College regularly talks about what makes an institution Great as opposed to Good. One thing that does this is an overriding concern for loyal employees. And Columbus State employees deserve more of it.


What's Really Happening is produced by the Communications Committee of the Columbus State Education Association. We welcome your comments, news, and insights.

Steve Abbott, President / x5096
Karl Rieppel, Vice President / x2500
Amy Brubaker, Secretary and Association Representative / x5068
Greg Goodhart, Treasurer / x5431
Darrell Minor, Parliamentarian / x5310
Bill Mundy, Association Representative / x5176
Dr. Jane McDowell, Association Representative / x2656 
Dave Busch, Association Representative / x5079
Dr. Charlie Gallucci, Association Representative / x5499
Leslie Smith, Association Representative / x5302
Dr. Wendy McCullen-Vermillion, Association Representative / x2693
Lisa Schneider, Association Representative / x5124


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