Union contract up for vote

Washington Federation of State Employees and Washington State University arrived at a tentative contract agreement on Monday, Sept. 27, with a statewide vote slated for Wednesday, Sept. 29, that will include all classified employees that are covered by the proposed contract.

(Approximately 1,000 WSU classified employees are not in a bargaining unit and will not be affected by this contract.)

Ratification of the agreement requires a majority vote of those individuals who participate in the election. If those employees approve the contract, it will be presented to the Board of Regents for ratification at a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 30. If approved, the contract will be submitted to the governor’s office for inclusion in the governor’s 2005-07 budget request and will be acted upon by the 2005 Legislature. If approved by the Legislature, it will go into effect July 1, 2005.

Major contract conditions

Major items in the proposed contract included:

* A wage increase in base pay of 3.2 percent effective July 1, 2005, and a 2.0 percent, one-time, lump-sum payment effective July 1, 2006.

* Stabilization of the employee premium share of health care benefits, for the first time since 1995, at 12 percent.

* As a condition of continued employment, all employees are to pay for the added costs of arbitration and contract administration through union membership dues or equivalent fees paid to the union. WFSE dues are currently 1.37% to a maximum of $53.29 per month.

* Continuation of existing job classification and pay system for employees covered by this contract.

* Elimination of mandatory performance appraisals.

* Leave accruals and holidays preserved without change.

* A two-year moratorium on competitive contracting.

“It’s a good contract, a fair contract and in line with what we saw in other agreements around the state,” said Tim Welch, director of public affairs, Washington Federation of State Employees. “It includes fair pay, helps control health care costs, and preserves a lot of important rights like leave accrual rates. To get all that wrapped up in one contract is an accomplishment.”

Under the proposed WFSE/WSU contract, if an employee files a grievance and that issue goes to arbitration, the cost for arbitration would be paid by whoever loses.

Regarding competitive contracting, Steve DeSoer, director of Human Resource Services, said, “This moratorium does not mean the university will not contract out at all. There are certain services for which the university has traditionally and currently contracts out. That situation will continue. However, we have agreed not to implement the new  competitive contracting prior to July 1, 2007.

“We will continue under the current system of contracting and wait for the new state competitive contracting system and regulations to stabilize. Right now, that is a brand new process, and we did not want to enter into that fray.”

DeSoer said the call to eliminate mandatory performance appraisals is a positive step forward for both employees and the university.

“This will eliminate a practice that generates about 5-7 pages of paper work on each employee every year,” he said. “It does not preclude feedback on job performance, or input on how someone might do a better job, but it does eliminate an enormous paper drill. I think it will save everyone a lot of time, particularly when 90 percent of employees do their jobs well. Why put everyone through this process regularly.”

What happens if employees do not approve the proposed contract on Wednesday, and WSU and WFSE miss the state’s Oct. 1 deadline for submitting the contract to the governor’s office?

“We’ll cross that bridge when and if we come to it,” said Welch said, “but we’re prepared to ask for a reopening of negotiations. What we know is, this could be the high water mark and it seems like a fair contract and in line with what other universities have.”

Times and locations for voting

Here are the times and locations listed for voting on Wednesday:

* WSU Pullman campus — Food Services Building, Room 101.  The Food Services Building is located on the east end of Grimes Way, directly across the street from McCluskey. (The sign out front of the building reads “Maintenance Services for Campus Life) .  The voting times will be: 6 a.m. 8 p.m.  

(The specific rooms for the following voting locations has not yet been determined)
* ICN campus,  4 – 7 p.m. 
* Yelm and Elma, 11:45 a.m. – noon
* Long Beach, 9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
* Shelton, 12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
* Mt. Vernon Research & Extension Unit AND the County Extension, 12:30 p.m. Both will vote at the Research & Extension Unit location.

For additional information, go to the WFSE website http://www.wfse.org, the WFSE Local 1066 website http://www.wfse.org/local1066, or the WSU HRS/Labor Relations website http://www.hrs.wsu.edu.