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PAT Staff Union Organizing Information from HR

May 4, 2011

To:       All Professional, Administrative and Technical Staff
From:   David Proulx, Interim AVP for Human Resources
Date:   May 3, 2011
RE:      PAT Staff Union Organizing Information

Hello Everyone –

There have been many communications circulating regarding the organization of a PAT Union.  We would like to continue to provide information and communication that is helpful to you as you consider your decision. We feel that it is critical that you understand your rights and potential changes to your work environment before you sign a union card.   Some of the key issues you should consider are:

  1. If the union were to be certified as the representative of a PAT unit, would I be able to discuss working conditions and compensation directly with my supervisor as I do now?

    • One of the most important aspects of unionization – and one that any professional should think about carefully - is that by unionizing, the individual employee selects someone else to represent him or her when it comes to compensation and working conditions. If a union were to be certified as the representative of PAT employees, then you would no longer have the right to negotiate directly with your manager and supervisor on working conditions and compensation. This doesn’t mean you can never speak to your supervisor about such matters, but it does mean that the administration cannot deal directly with you when it comes to changes in your compensation and working conditions.  Those matters would be subject to negotiations with the union. 

  2. Does being part of the union guarantee me salary increases and the same benefits?

    • No. It does guarantee that you will have union representation to negotiate salary increases and benefits with the University System Board of Trustees but being part of the union does not guarantee future compensation levels.

  3. The union has said that on its web site:
    "…once the employees form their union, they start bargaining from where they are right now.  In other words, they keep all of the pay and benefits that they have at the time that they form their union."
    Is that true?

    • This statement is very misleading. While it is true that pay and benefits cannot change unilaterally once a union is certified, it is perfectly appropriate for management to propose cut backs in benefits. Indeed, this is going on all over the country right now.  To say that employees “keep all of the pay and benefits that they have at the time that they form their union” is simply not true and it is disappointing that the union is misleading people in this way. 

      If it were true, then the faculty union would not be paying anything more for health insurance than they were in 1994!  If it were true, the faculty union members would still have access to a post-65 retiree medical plan. In addition, the AAUP has also agreed to many benefit changes through its history (contracts are available on-line).  The 95-98 contract had the elimination of retiree medical, the 98-03 contract introduced a significant shift to employee contributions to medical coverage; the 03-06 contract increased the faculty HMO contribution from 3%/4%/5% to 4/8/12;  the 06-09 contract increased that to 8/12/16.

      Once labor and management enter into negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement, each side is free to propose whatever changes they like to what currently exists. Unions will propose compensation increases; and in some cases, management may propose decreases.  Changes to working conditions can also occur. All such matters are bargainable.  The safest – and most honest – thing that can be said about collective bargaining is that as a result of negotiations, employees may end up with more in some areas of compensation and working conditions;  less than what they have in some areas; or exactly the same as they have now.

  4. What happens if the union and the University System can not reach a collective bargaining agreement on negotiable issues?

    • The process then goes through a mediation period where both parties are encouraged to reach agreement with the help of an outside mediator.  If that is unsuccessful, it goes through a factfinding process where both parties present their cases in a formal hearing to the fact finder, and the factfinder then presents his or her opinion on each issue in dispute.  But the fact finder’s report is advisory; each party can accept or reject that opinion.   If the parties still cannot reach an agreement after consideration of the fact finder’s report, then the parties return to the bargaining table for further negotiations.  During this period of negotiations, there would be no changes to compensation or other working conditions while the parties are trying to reach an agreement. 

  5. I have heard it said by union organizers that if we form a union right away it can block the changes in medical and retirement benefits that the Trustees approved. Would the formation and certification of a PAT Union reverse or otherwise stop the USNH Board of Trustee decision to reduce medical and retirement benefits for non unionized faculty and staff?

    • No.  The Trustees have already voted and decided upon the reduction in medical and retirement benefits.   Since this is the case, those changes are already part of the status quo, although the final implementation has not occurred as yet. The certification of a union at this stage would not stop those changes from going into effect. The Trustees would be within its rights to make the changes that it already voted on.

      This is similar to what occurred when the faculty unionized in 1991. At that time, the Trustees had already decided to increase premiums to health insurance prior to the union election.  The changes were going to be phased in over a period of time and had not yet taken effect when the AAUP won the election. After the union election, the changes went into effect as scheduled. The AAUP filed charges with the Labor Board claiming that the increases could not go into effect since the faculty was now unionized and the Trustees had to negotiate the matter with the AAUP.

      The Labor Board disagreed. The Labor Board noted that the Trustees had already decided to phase in increases in premiums prior to the union's certification and therefore there was nothing illegal about those changes taking effect.  The Labor Board said that the Trustees had "prepared and approved a plan of health care costs to take place over a three year period for the entire university personnel well before any opportunity for the subject matter to be placed on the bargaining table."  The plan "had been developed by the University system and implemented in good faith and that the plan should not be put on hold pending negotiations."  (PELRB Case No. 91-86). The same logic would apply here – the changes have already been decided upon by the Trustees.

  6. If I do not sign a card will I still have to represented by the union?

    • Yes, if the union drive is successful in getting 50% plus 1 of employees in an appropriate PAT bargaining unit to sign cards and have them approved by the State Labor Board, OR if the union does not get 50% plus one but instead files a petition for an election and the union wins the election. (A union can file such a petition for an election once it has 30% of employees in an appropriate unit signed up. )

  7. If there is an election and I vote against the union but the union still wins, would I still have to be represented by the union?

    • Yes. Once again, if the union achieves majority status, either through signing up a majority, or by winning an election, then everyone in the bargaining unit is represented by the union regardless of whether they signed a card, or voted against the union, or did not vote at all.

  8. Would I have to pay any money to the union if it is become certified? What does it cost to be part of the union?

    • You may be required to either join the union and pay dues as a condition of employment, or pay an agency fee to the union.  On its web site, the Union is saying that union dues would likely be 1.25% of your annual salary.  If you earn $50,000 per year, that would mean you would have to pay $625 per year in dues.  If you earn $75,000 per year it would be $937 per year in dues.   Depending on the outcome of bargaining, you may be required to pay this amount as a condition of employment. And that is not one time money – you may be required to pay this amount every year. 

      Please also refer to the previously sent frequently asked questions at http://www.unh.edu/hr/pdfs/Union-organizing-activity-information-032911.pdf   to answer additional questions you may have.  We are working on information for managers that we will share with you soon.  

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