Bargaining Update – July 10, 2015

Your WEASO team met today for the third time with the WEA bargaining team in an attempt to make progress on our new agreement. When we left the table on June 26th, your WEASO team had presented a broad list of interests and issues which our members had informed us were of high relevance and importance, and the WEA team requested the opportunity to respond to today.

Although some good faith efforts were made by WEA to address a few of our concerns—most notably the inclusion of additional language around the issue of management/governance bullying and intimidation—many elements of our June 26th list were not addressed, with little reason other than a desire to not modify existing contract language given as justification. In response—and in an effort to continue the discussion toward progress—the WEASO team presented a more detailed list of specific proposed contract language and modifications.

Of particular concern to the WEASO team is the adherence of WEA to their initial proposal in terms of salary and duration; it is the position of WEA that they strongly desire a one year contract, characterized in their proposal as an “extension”—which although protects and maintains the core items of concern that we heard from you, such as pension, healthcare, and all other economic benefits of the existing agreement—the WEA proposal as it stands only calls for incremental movement for staff who have not yet reached the top of the salary scale. Although these staff members would be eligible for the incremental gains which are currently in the existing agreement, there would be no increases to these individual cells under the current WEA proposal, nor would any staff at the top of the salary schedule receive any salary gain whatsoever. We believe that this amounts to a wage freeze for a significant portion of our staff, and that this is unacceptable. Although we empathize with the reasons cited behind the WEA desire for such a short-term agreement, the fact of the matter is that the questions being asked that have led to WEA pushing a one year extension—primarily those questions associated with a potential loss of agency fee—will not be definitively answered by the time which we would need to begin bargaining a successor agreement in 2016.

The WEA team did ask today for an extension of pension provisions regarding COLA through November. On the surface, we’d like to believe this is a thoughtful measure to protect members who may be retiring, in the event that an agreement is not reached by the expiration of the current contract. We also hope that this is not a signal from management that they do not believe a settlement can be reached by said expiration. We also had a brief discussion regarding RIF and layoff; Armand indicated that philosophically, any reduction in staff is a last resort. We will continue to discuss various protectionary measures as we move forward.

We wouldn’t consider today’s meeting as combative; nor would we refer to it as collaborative. We are hopeful that when the WEA team considers the amount of work that will be required of staff over the next upcoming years, that WEA will respond with a proposal that we can work with, and ultimately lead to a tentative agreement which our members will be happy to ratify.

Our understanding is that the WEA team will review and respond to our specific, detailed proposals at 10am on Wednesday, July 22nd. Keep a lookout for an update from the WEASO team following that meeting. We will also be conducting a second baginar update on Friday, July 24—details will be sent to your home email. Last but certainly not least, with the retirement of Mike Horner next week, and in the interests of continuity of the bargain, Shelby Hopkins has graciously accepted the role and responsibility of bargaining chair going forward; our good friend Mike will remain on the team and continue to play an important leadership role as primary spokesperson on our team.

Solidarity,
Your WEASO Bargaining Team