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August 17 Bargaining Update

The two sides met again on Thursday August 12. 

Insurance summary:  We have several outstanding information requests, including a disruption report that is specific to DelVal. The disruption report may not be available from PAISBOA before mid-September. We are also waiting for first look premium information from our current insurance provider.    We met with PAISBOA to get more information about any possible transition.

Course cap summary: The administration rejected our counter proposal and is demanding the right to unilaterally increase class size.  

Sabbatical summary: We reached agreement on the sabbatical proposals and the tentative agreement will be signed next session.

Professional development: The administration stressed that there is a limited amount of money available to support faculty and any money earmarked for professional development would be removed from salary/health benefits for faculty.

Our asks:  Wear your AAUP face mask (trust/transparency) on campus, especially to events like Weekend of Welcome.  Send us a private email address for communications (esambris@gmail.com).  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

We finalized language for the sabbatical proposals. Included is the opportunity for non-tenure track faculty to apply for sabbatical opportunities after they are in 3-year contracts. This will be signed at our next meeting.

We presented a workload counter proposal. We proposed that faculty could annually (or on a semester-by-semester basis) elect to teach 15 contact hours in exchange for a 20% increase in salary. The administration is considering this proposal.  

The administration was not prepared to discuss our most recent VSIP proposal. This is the same proposal that we sent in April, and we re-sent this language to Mr. Pedrow. This will be on the agenda in a future meeting.

We formally responded to the course enrollment proposal presented by the administration last time. While the administration has requested a procedure for revisiting course caps, they are insisting on the ability to unilaterally increase course caps annually by 10%. We have agreed to the presented procedure wherein the curriculum committee would be tasked with revisiting the caps. However we have pushed back and are not in favor of the last step, where the administration has proposed being able to ignore the response of the curriculum committee and the faculty and unilaterally impose increased course caps.

We mutually agreed to table the intellectual property discussion this time, based on having a lot still remaining to discuss and have agreed that future discussion can take place after the current CBA is ratified, with the potential for reforming a committee.  

We met with the representatives from PAISBOA and our legal counsel to get more information about how faculty may be impacted by any proposed transition to health insurance managed by PAISBOA. The administration has not determined how much money they would expect to save based on this transition and have not run any impact reports.  They have not done any migration analysis. We have repeatedly asked for disruption reports, including for prescription drugs. Brian argued that the faculty has been given all the information they need to do this for themselves. Our council pushed back that with the level of technical expertise needed to navigate formularies that this was an unreasonable and atypical response. Additionally, we have only been provided an abbreviated formulary and do not in fact have the amount of information we need to perform these analyses ourselves. While the administration has expressed that more than two options would be too confusing for faculty, other employers offer five options for their employees.  The administration has taken the position that they do not want to grandfather any drugs for any members. Step therapy would be a major change if the move to PAISBOA is approved. This is not a requirement of our current plan.   

We briefly discussed the right of first refusal and the 70% ratio requirement.  We stressed that sometimes qualified faculty are overlooked, especially in the graduate programs.   

We discussed our request to increase the adjunct/overload teaching rate (undergrad and grad). The administration reiterated that they have the right to set the adjunct rate. The adjunct rate and the overload rate are the same, as FT faculty are basically hired in an adjunct capacity although it is called “overload”.  Faculty overloads are not matched in 403B and faculty have adjunct contracts for these hours. The sliding scale at Bucks County Community College was suggested. This scale rewards adjunct faculty who have taught for many semesters at the University.

We discussed our proposal of a dedicated $2,500 per year professional development allotment per faculty member. The administration made clear that they would take any professional development money away from money allocated for salary/raises and benefits for faculty and that they are not willing to “expand” the pie allowed for faculty even to the extent of guaranteeing the amount that was previously allocated (in 2013, $250,000 was allocated to two funds: professional development and teaching equipment, divided equally.  This money has been lost in recent years).   

August 6, 2021: Bargaining Update

The two sides met twice last week on Tuesday and Thursday.

Insurance summary: The administration has not responded sufficiently to our numerous information requests regarding impacts of the proposed new insurance plan, including doctor and prescription interruptions.

Retirement summary: The administration is pressing to decrease retirement contributions regardless of our previously negotiated agreement, but we emphasize that we have not yet received the benefit of our last bargain.

Course cap summary: The administration is proposing a process to unilaterally impose increased course enrollments in annual 10% increments should the Curriculum Committee and faculty decide against increasing the cap (based on curricular and academic needs). We are willing to discuss implementing a process to re-evaluate course caps, including considering the process suggested by the administration, with the exception of allowing course enrollment increases to be imposed.

VSIP summary: We reiterated our proposed voluntary separation incentive program (VSIP) originally sent in April and proposed it be tied with a full-time faculty-to-adjunct ratio of 70% and a first right of refusal for coursework. Brian Pedrow, lead negotiator and counsel for the Administration, called this ratio a “non-starter” for the Administration. The Administration is not willing to even discuss a ratio or teaching assignments.

Our asks: Email us (esambris@gmail.com) with any additional questions for our PAISBOA and IBX meeting THIS THURSDAY.   Use the employee out of pocket cost calculator and SUBMIT your calculation.   Responses are anonymous.                  

Tuesday, August 3

The administration wanted to discuss health insurance so we reiterated our information requests and elaborated on what we need to further our understanding of how the proposed changes will impact our members. We questioned what help the administration had received to arrive at the decision to go with PAISBOA: has the administration engaged a consultant or a broker to seek assistance with finding better plans?  They have not looked into any other options. Although we have requested a disruption report, what has been provided is not specific to our members or even to the larger campus group. So far, the information provided pertains to 33,000 or so physicians and does not reflect the actual impact to our bargaining unit members. They have not done a disruption report and had not intended to do analysis of cost increases or disruptions for medications, copays or providers.  We need to understand how much this is going to cost our members.  We requested this analysis.  Jennifer Brennan (Director of HR) will look into a disruption report for both medical and prescription benefits for our bargaining unit members.

There are possible differences in the formulary that may impact members; the administration is not proposing any grandfathering, meaning that some members may not be able to continue on their current medications, or may have cost changes. We questioned whether medications are included in the IBX deductible. While the administration asserts this is the case, it is not part of the current contract with IBX: written affirmation is needed to ensure that the plan will count covered prescription drug costs toward the deductible. All drug approvals and step therapy plans must be restarted with a new insurance plan. Therefore, some faculty may experience a disruption in continuity of care. We requested a follow-up meeting with the PAISBOA rep, to include an IBX rep, to answer remaining questions. Please email us (esambris@gmail.com)  any follow-up questions you have after viewing the recent PAISBOA Q&A video. Also, please use the anonymous out-of-pocket cost calculator and submit your results to our survey.

Next, we discussed the 403B contributions. These contributions will be “snapping back” to the match at 2:1 for up to 5% of salary contributions. We bargained for this and gave up the immediate benefit to the University ($600,000). We haven’t seen our benefit of the bargain. Even though we have not received our bargained benefit, the University is proposing undoing this to restart bargaining about retirement contributions. We asked whether the University is open to making us “whole” through lost contributions and interest for the past year. The University is pressing to decrease the retirement contributions regardless of our previously negotiated agreement, but we emphasized that we have not yet received the benefit of our last bargain.

Thursday August 5

The administration proposed a method to revisit course caps for previously approved courses. In prior discussion, the idea of tasking the Curriculum Committee with evaluating requested course cap changes was presented. Ben Rusiloski, the interim University President, presented the administration proposal modeled on our current Curriculum Committee procedures. The process outlined by the first 6 steps of the proposal can be initiated by either a Department or the Administration (via a Dean): the process requires filling out a form with an explanation for the change, which is then submitted to the Curriculum Committee for review. Approval by the Committee would be subject to the usual 10-day review by faculty. The seventh step as proposed by the Administration would allow the Administration to unilaterally impose increased course enrollments in annual 10% increments should the Curriculum Committee and faculty decide against increasing the cap (based on curricular and academic needs). We were amenable to agreeing to the first six steps of the proposal, without allowing for unilateral course cap increases resulting from the Administration’s overturning the decision of the Curriculum Committee.

Next, we discussed our counteroffer to the VSIP proposed by the Administration in the spring term. Our counter was previously dismissed by the Administration. Our initial tenure buy-out proposal has already been rejected by the Administration and we expressed willingness to consider our more recent counterproposal in lieu of our original tenure buy-out plan. Because we are concerned that a voluntary separation program would result in full-time faculty being replaced by adjunct faculty, with fewer protections and more tenuous employment, we requested that any voluntary separation agreement be considered in concert with a full-time faculty-to-adjunct ratio of 70% (this is our current ratio when overload is included in the calculation). Brian Pedrow, lead negotiator and counsel for the Administration, called this ratio a “non-starter” for the Administration. The Administration is not willing to even discuss a ratio or teaching assignments. We have also requested a right of first refusal for teaching courses that would be taught by adjuncts. We have expressed our concern that our graduate programs do not have sufficient faculty oversight and connection to our undergraduate programs as well as full-time faculty. This is an issue that accrediting bodies have also brought up during reviews. The Administration is seeking to further separate our graduate and undergraduate programs.

On Thursday, August 12, we will meet with PAISBOA and IBX representatives.  That meeting will be followed by our next bargaining session.   

July 26, 2021: Bargaining Update

The two sides met last week on Thursday, July 22.

We began with discussion of the 3rd hold-over tentative agreement from last summer. In March of 2020, the union team suggested changes to the selection process for Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee members. Additional language issues were also identified, and changes were agreed upon. The teams agreed to a selection process that is a combination of voting and random selection. First, all faculty will vote for the member at large. Once that vote is completed, any remaining open seats will be selected through a random selection process. For each school a pool of eligible faculty will be created—minus those who decline–to replace committee members who are at the end of their two-year terms. Terms are still capped so that faculty cannot serve more than three consecutive terms.

Next, we discussed class size caps and how to address the administration’s proposal to formalize a process for setting and revising class size. We have stressed that this should be up to the discretion of faculty and department chairs who are best positioned to understand the needs of the students and the constraints of the department. Faculty want to promote optimal learning conditions for all students in their courses. The administration recognizes that changes cannot be imposed.

Large class sizes are a concern for many courses, including those with a significant writing component and those with hands-on work or discussion components. Some relief for faculty with high class numbers and/or writing intensive courses was recommended, potentially in the form of release time once classes reach a threshold. The definition of that threshold has not been set.

We pushed back on the proposed move to 15 contact hours from 12 for full-time faculty. We noted that student research mentoring is only possible because of our current credit loads. Several contracts ago a move from the range of 12-15 (with limits on prep periods) was negotiated down to 12 contact hours per semester in mutual acknowledgement of best practices in higher education. The standard contact hour/course loads in higher education are lower than our current standard of 12 contact hours per semester. Accrediting bodies have noted high workloads on our campus as an area to improve upon and have recommended decreasing workload. The lead negotiator for the administration stated that accreditation is not the highest priority for the University and that accreditation may need to be sacrificed in some programs.

Finally, we discussed sabbatical opportunities for non-tenure track faculty. We have a tentative agreement that non-tenure track faculty will be allowed to apply for up to two sabbaticals, at least 6 years apart, after they are in their first three-year contract (year 9) and that up to one per year will be awarded. In exchange we agreed that sabbatical opportunities for tenured faculty will be limited to two. This item has not been finalized but we look forward to signing this tentative agreement in our next meeting.

Important reminder: we are one month away from our negotiated increase and reinstitution of 403B matching. Please remember that with the onset of the pandemic, in the spirit of shared sacrifice, we gave up our contracted 403B match for the 2020-2021 academic year. Next month, we will again be able to take advantage of the match. Although it will take faculty 10 years to make up the lost retirement contributions if they contribute 5% (matched 2:1), we recognize that staff and many administrators also have had lost retirement contributions, and we are grateful to have the contracted benefit returning for us in August. In order to take advantage of the increased cap on matching, you will need to adjust your own retirement contribution through ADP. Instructions have recently been sent from HR, but if you have trouble or questions, please reach out to us or directly to HR.

Our next two meetings are scheduled for Tuesday August 3 and Thursday August 5. Keep an eye out for updates and for additional surveys to help us represent you at the table.

July 21, 2021: Bargaining Update

The two sides met again last week on Thursday, July 15.

We had been scheduled to negotiate twice last week, but the Tuesday session was canceled by the administration due to a personal matter of their lead negotiator (their attorney).   

On Thursday, we revisited tentative agreements discussed at our negotiation updates last summer.   Two of the three tentative agreements were reaffirmed by Administration and Union teams.  

The first reaffirmed agreement incorporates three-year contract language for non-tenure track faculty into the CBA.   This is important because it codifies the right of non-tenure track faculty to apply for these extended contracts.   Three-year contracts provide additional job security and protections for non-tenure track faculty during the duration of the three-year period.

The second reaffirmed tentative agreement provides additional definitions and guidance for academic ranks and titles.   

The third tentative agreement, which has not been signed off on yet by the Administration team, seeks to improve the functioning of the very important Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee.   It remedies some unfair voting issues (i.e., librarians currently can only vote for the at-large member) and provides for additional required steps for the P&T Committee (most changes have been well received and have been already implemented, such as the practice for allowing candidates for promotion or tenure to appear before the Committee to answer questions).   

Finally, we spent time discussing the administration’s proposals on workload, mandatory training, and scheduling.   We presented our concerns about how the proposed changes may impact student mentorship, faculty-student interactions, and student choice in creating schedules (e.g., to work around other commitments, such as E360 experiences and internships).     

Regarding recent discussions of health insurance coverage, we have requested additional information based on your feedback.   Some of you graciously provided us with estimates of how your costs based on your current premium and copayments would increase under the new plans.   Any additional information in this area will help to further inform how changes could impact faculty.

If you have a chance, please calculate your annual premium and out-of-pocket costs for this year based on your current plan and your choice of the new plans. Knowing the difference in cost would be immensely helpful to the negotiation team (send to esambris@gmail.com).

If you would like to be more involved with discussions or activities, please reach out to me, Ed or Ellen.    We are eager to have more people involved. Fill out this interest form and we can plug you into our activities: https://forms.gle/tQGbFwzdhBZcdnq37

Our next negotiation session is planned for Thursday, July 22.  Keep an eye out for updates!