The Temple Association of University Professionals continues to battle with the university in negotiations over its contract, which expired Oct. 15, 2008. But instead of communication improving, it has seemingly worsened.
Temple made three proposals to TAUP this semester. The first proposal, put on the table Jan. 16, was made due to the changing economic climate. It was a five-year proposal, including the current year, with a 3 percent increase for this year, a salary freeze for the next, and a 2 percent increase each of the following three years. The proposal also included funds for merit-based pay, among other things.
The second proposal, pitched Feb. 9, stated that the gross domestic product would be used as an indicator for whether or not additional increases in the fourth and fifth years should be made.
According to the university negotiating team, the most recent proposal was made March 11 and formalized in writing April 8.
Neither side could agree on what indicator should be used in determining increases, said George Moore, member of the university negotiating team. The university proposed that a reopener on salary increases would be granted for the fourth and fifth years if the economy recovers. University officials thought this would allow for more flexibility, Moore said.
Moore said that the university gave TAUP the formalized March 11 offer and publicized it on April 8 because TAUP referenced the GDP as recently as April 6 as the university’s proposed economic indicator.
“When TAUP misrepresented negotiations, it was necessary to put the proposal in writing,” Moore said.
TAUP President Art Hochner said the two sides agreed to an informal process and off-the-record meetings in which attendees are free to speak their minds without committing themselves to a proposal. He said Temple published a modified proposal which was part of the informal process and, therefore, null and void.
“When you have those discussions there is an agreement of informality,” said Sharon Boyle of the university negotiating team. “But to act as if they haven’t happened is really disingenuous.”
Hochner said he received an e-mail the morning of April 8 from the mediator stating that a meeting time had been agreed upon between Hochner and the chief negotiator for the following week. He said they then sent the proposal to him that night and released it to the public a few hours later.
“They’re not operating the way they should despite an explicit understanding at the table,” Hochner said. “They made an informal proposal in March and TAUP made one back two days later. They didn’t respond until the e-mail on April 8. They’re not engaging in negotiations in good faith. They really are undermining the process by doing things this way. You can’t negotiate in public. It just doesn’t work.”
Temple did, however, respond to TAUP’s March 13 proposal in writing through their mediator, said Boyle.
Hochner chose not to give details of TAUP’s March 13 proposal because he said it was part of the informal negotiations.
Temple is not supposed to send proposals to members that have not been discussed with the negotiating team and that they are allowed to communicate with members only after they have had this discussion, Hochner said.
“We’re not saying they can’t communicate,” Hochner said. “They just can’t break the rules of how communication takes place. Normal protocol is to talk with each other and it’s not that we weren’t available.”
Hochner said both teams should have met before the public release of the proposal to clarify the terms so that he can relay them to the bargaining unit himself.
“We gave them the proposal March 11,” Moore said. “They could ask any questions they wanted to. They’ve had it for four weeks. It was given as a proposal, not as loose talk.”
TAUP and management are currently in the midst of an administrative hearing for “unfair labor practices,” a complaint which was filed by TAUP in November. Hochner said it was filed because Temple was communicating with TAUP members and misrepresenting the union’s positions in the process.
“TAUP wants to monopolize the viewpoints being expressed,” Moore said. “They’re arguing about the accuracy of statements made and claiming that various things we have communicated are untrue. We can say the same thing about what they say. We believe we have been as accurate as humanly possible.”
The hearing began on April 2. The next session will be on April 27.
“We would like to get an agreement [on the contract] as soon as possible,” Moore said. “But we need to have more dialogue about trying to get it solved rather than charges of process.”
In regards to the terms of the most recent proposal, Moore said TAUP only needs to accept the basic framework and they can then go back and make adjustments and improvements.
Hochner said TAUP does not agree with the five-year framework because the economic future is unknown.
“It’s a meaningless proposal to say we’ll reopen,” Hochner said. “I don’t know that we’ll come to an agreement and if you’re stuck with a five year contract with a reopener there is no guarantee that you’ll come to an agreement. We’re not now.”
“We are obliged to negotiate additional increases with them,” Moore said. “The current negotiations are languishing because of TAUP, not Temple.”
Hochner said he also does not understand the salary freeze for next year being that Temple is scheduled to receive stimulus money then and tuition enrollment and the budget are healthy.
“It sounded good in the fall but now there’s a better picture,” Hochner said. “What’s the reason for this freeze? We don’t think it’s necessary. They haven’t shown us why they can’t get a pay increase.”
“The U.S. Department of Education says institutions need to be extremely careful with how they use the stimulus funds,” Moore said. “They are one-time funds being made available and they’re not continuing. You shouldn’t use them for commitments that go longer. You have to be conservative in how you guarantee future payments.”
“We’re trying to be as thoughtful as we can about how we spend our money for the sake of our students,” said Ray Betzner, university spokesman. “We want to make sure that Temple remains as good of a value as it possibly can as an education.”
Kathryn A. López can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.