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Grievance filed for Academic Professional whose position was eliminated

September 11, 2017 / Phil Lesch

A Division A grievance was presented at Step One this week on behalf of an academic professional who received six (6) month notice of termination for the elimination of his position.

Background: Grievant was previously assigned to manage computer labs and troubleshoot and maintain computer lab equipment in coordination with OIT, and provide AV technology support for standard classrooms and provide technology support for online course delivery. The grievant had been performing these duties successfully since 1998. The grievant earned wages close to the top of the Instructional Technology Specialist I wage scale. On or about September 15, 2016 significant new duties at a higher level than previously performed were added to the grievant’s responsibilities. These duties included the development and management of scheduling software, management of student labs and support of global classrooms. Also added were all duties associated with online video production and post-production, and management of the video production and post-production studios.

On or about August 9, 2017 the grievant was provided notice of termination effective February 5, 2018 with an explanation that the number of computer labs in the unit was being reduced from 3 to 2, and support of the computer labs was to be outsourced to OIT. At approximately the same time grievant was told by management that a new position was being created in the Instructional Technology Specialist I job family that substantively contained all the video production and post production duties, and all the online class development support that was added to the grievants responsibilities on or about September 1, 2016. The new position is to have a pay rate at the bottom of the Instructional Technology Specialist I pay range. The new position also adds the recruitment and training of student workers in these work areas, which would be appropriate for a position in this family with the working title of Associate Director. The grievant was encouraged to apply for the position.

The University’s conduct violates the Agreement in several ways.  Under the University’s “offer” to grievant to apply for the new position, the grievant would be performing substantially the same job at a significantly lower rate of pay.  Article 17 and Article 30 govern salaries for Academic Professionals.  Article 17 Section 5 specifically is violated in that the elimination of the position is not justified in that the duties will continue, albeit under a different position title. The duties that are purportedly being transferred to OIT are a small part of the grievant’s responsibilities and that limited outsourcing does not justify the elimination of the position and creating a new position with a new title. The University cannot evade the contractual salary provisions and reduce an employee’s salary by eliminating a position and recreating it under a new title.  Reducing a bargaining unit member’s salary in this manner also violates Article 8.  Because the University presumably eliminated the grivant's position due to financial issues and not programmatic needs, the University also violated the Agreement by failing to follow the procedures provided for under Articles 22 and 23.  The University has also violated Article 8 and Article 27 by terminating a bargaining unit member at will and/or imposing a significant salary reduction and without just cause and without progressive discipline.  We are also concerned that the termination of the grievant violated Article 13 by discriminating against trhe grievant on the basis of age.  

PSU-AAUP is seeking the cancellation of the elimination of the position and the new duties be retained in the current position.

This is not the first time that an academic professional position at the top of a job family pay range was eliminated and at the same time another position was created at the bottom of the pay range. We attempted to stop the practice altogether in bargaining for the 2015-19 CBA- the language in Article 17 Section 11 is the result of that attempt. Unfortunately this language does not stop the practice. 

The last time the University eliminated a position at the top of the pay scale and simultaneously created a new position in the same family at the bottom of the pay scale in January 2014 we filed a grievance, a Demand to Bargain, and then an Unfair Practice Charge. We our efforts resulted in a mediated settlement for the academic professional on a non-precedential basis. The academic professional who was terminated was "hired" in the new position at the same at the same rate of pay, but with an FTE reduction to fit the "budget" of the new position.

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