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Academic Professional gets job family reassignment salary increase much lower than agreement

December 05, 2017 / Phil Lesch

An academic professional whose position was in the Program Administrator I job family was asked by her manager and the Division Head to assume additional duties that were related to her normally assigned duties from another Division in the University. That other Division had lost its most recent part time employee to the private sector; there had historically been high turnover in the position as there was not enough work to fund a 1.0 FTE position, and the work was highly specialized and commanded a substantially higher salary in the private sector.

The member's position was similarly underpaid compared to the private sector, and the member was highly skilled and experienced in the role. Administration was aware that they would have considerable difficulty finding a replacement for the member if she sought higher salaries for the same work elsewhere. The member was asked to assess the "value" of the additional work, and provide a dollar amount that the unit should charge that other Division to assume the work. Because the new duties were at the Program Administrator II level, the understanding was that a substantial percentage of the charge would be added to the member's salary as part of a job family reassignment to PA II level, pursuant to Article 17 Section 4.

The member began the new duties on or about February 1, 2017 and the unit started receiving payments from the other Division for the work from that date. The job family placement review was initiated soon after, and the movement of the position from the PA I job family to the PA II job family was approved on or about June 23, 2017.

The job position change notice from Human Resources, however, stated that the member's salary would be increased only by the minimum in Article 30 Section 7, or $2693 for a 12-month employee, effective July 1, 2017. This was roughly 1/3 of the amount that the member expected with an effective date much later than agreed. When the member asked her supervisor what happened, they told her that HR were only allowed to pay the amount specified in Article 30 Section 7; that it was, in fact a fixed amount, and that the contract was incorrect.

PSU-AAUP was called in to help. We sought a meeting with the member's supervisor and the Division Head, along with Julia Getchell, Director of Academic Employee and Labor Relations. PSU-AAUP advised that the language in Article 30 Section 7 clearly stated that the amount indicated was a minimum-- that administration could add any amount to the salary that they deemed appropriate. At that meeting the manager and the Division Head advised they wanted to pay additional salary to the member as had previously been discussed, but were prohibited by HR from doing so.

PSU-AAUP threatened to file a grievance pursuant to Article 28 Division B Formal Procedures at Step One. Administration asked for a temporary reprieve while they attempted to resolve the matter informally.

In late July administration advised PSU-AAUP that HR had cited a past practice of only paying the minimum in Article 30 Section 7 unless an additional amount was authorized by the Special Salary Increase process (SSI). 

PSU-AAUP recognizes there was a past practice for special salary increases that could be requested by managers for members based on exceptional performance, additional duties, retention, and internal equity. PSU-AAUP had never previously heard of the SSI process in conjunction with the Article 30 Section 7 salary increase. PSU-AAUP asserts that adding the special salary increase process to Article 30 Section 7 would require agreement with PSU-AAUP. Administration had never noticed PSU-AAUP of its interest in using the SSI process with that Article section, and the matter was not bargained. PSU-AAUP, thus, repudiated the assertion that a past practice existed that modified Article 30 Section 7. We asserted that it was and is a violation of the contract to apply the SSI process to Article 30 Section 7.

There is a significant difference between administration's assertion that they had a practice, and PSU-AAUP's agreement that a past practice existed for the purposes of Article 8, Section 1 of the CBA. Indeed, Administration asserts that it has practices all the time about things, but unless PSU-AAUP agrees that the past practice exists, there is no past practice for the purposes of Article 8 Section 1.

In August administration offered to initiate the SSI process for the member and pay any SSI approved retroactive to July 1. PSU-AAUP responded by requesting that the timeline to file the grievance be placed in abeyance, and submitted an information request  to give the University an opportunity to prove the practice they asserted. 

The managers submitted the formal SSI request on or about September 1, 2017. 

PSU-AAUP received the University's response to the Information request on or about September 22, 2017. The information requested was not provided. The information that was provided did not substantiate HR's assertion about the practice of using the SSI with Article 30 Section 7. On September 22, 2017 we notified administration that their information request was not responsive to our request and gave them until October 10, 2017 to provide the information requested. 

October 10 came and went with no response from administration. We received some of the missing information on October 27, but it did not substantiate the assertion. 

On October 31, 2017 we were informed that the SSI was denied. More specifically, we learned that HR provided the relevant Vice President the recommendation that the SSI be denied, and the Vice President denied the SSI.

Emotions were running very high after that denial. No one could explain why HR recommended the SSI be denied or why they ignored the manager's or Division Head's assertion that fair compensation and retention of this employee was very important to the Division.

On or about November 1 PSU-AAUP declared at the Labor Management committee that we would take the grievance out of abeyance. Both parties agreed that we would file the grievance at Step Two, with the Vice President who denied the SSI. On November 9 PSU-AAUP filed the grievance at Step Two. 

The deadline to hold the Step Two grievance meeting was November 17, 2017. By November 18, PSU-AAUP had still not heard from the Vice President. On November 20 PSU-AAUP contacted the Vice President. He advised on November 20 of his intention to hear the grievance.

By November 27 PSU-AAUP still had not received possible dates for the Step Two hearing and advised DAELR Julia Getchell that we were preparing to declare the Vice President non-responsive in order to appeal the grievance to Step Three. Administration responded that the Vice President was interested in a settlement and requested that the grievance be placed in abeyance to facilitate settlement discussions. PSU-AAUP agreed, provided that PSU-AAUP could move the grievance out of abeyance at any time, and if PSU-AAUP moved the grievance out of abeyance the Vice President would provide the Step Two response to the grievance in writing within five (5) days of receiving notice that the abeyance had been terminated. As per Article 29 Division B Formal Procedure, PSU-AAUP would then be able to appeal the grievance to Step Three within ten (10) days of receiving the written Step Two response, or within ten (10) days of the five (5) day deadline for the Step Two response. Administration agreed to our terms.

At Labor Management on November 29, administration offered a conceptual settlement proposal for the salary increase requested in the grievance (which was less than the salary increase originally promised), with an agreement with PSU-AAUP to disagree on the suspension of the use of SSI in Article 30 Section 7 salary increases above the contractual minimum. The grievant agreed to the offer in concept. 

We received the written proposal for an agreement on December 14, 2018. We refined the agreement quickly so that it reflected the conceptual agreement. All parties will execute the agreement to close the grievance on December 15. 


DB 12/8/17

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