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An Open Letter to Faculty on Status of Negotiations

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Click on the title to view the letter from UHPA Executive Director J. N. Musto.

Faculty Members,

Over the last two days the Governor has made a number of statements related to the state’s revenue shortfall for both this fiscal year and the projected biennium budget, July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2011.  I have just finished a series of campus meetings where I said that the only certainty was continued uncertainty.  These latest pronouncements certainly prove that point.

The following summarizes what UHPA knows, for certain, as of today.

  • Neither the Governor nor the UH administration has made any contract proposal that would reduce faculty salaries.
  • The executive branch has been advocating that the health insurance coverage provided by the EUTF be reduced to shift more of the costs of co-pays to the plan participants who select the HMSA PPO.
  • The EUTF HMSA PPO premiums are estimated to increase by 29.4% on July 1, 2009, and the Governor’s employer representatives on the EUTF indicated that there will be no additional state contributions to offset any increases in premium costs.  All of the increased premiums would therefore be paid by the public employees, including faculty.  Currently, the employer’s contributions cover 60% of the premiums, but with the premium rate increases that would shrink to approximately 47%, less than half.
  • The Governor has indicated that she wants to drop all employer contributions for dental and vision insurance, plus eliminate the EUTF life insurance.  The employer trustees have also indicated that they want to eliminate the chiropractic coverage in the current health insurance programs.
  •  The cooperation between the other public sector unions, especially HGEA and UPW, with UHPA has never been better.
  • HGEA was informed by the representatives of the Governor’s office that they would be receiving a proposal that progressively (think income tax rates) cut civil service salaries over the next biennium to achieve a $270 million dollar savings to the state.  Further, the state would be proposing reductions in sick leave and vacation accumulations for public employees (Although the amount of revenue savings through these cuts are minimal, the HGEA sees this as just a general effort to reduce all public employee benefits under the cover of the projected decline in state revenues.)
  • Neither HGEA nor UPW have received any proposals from the state executive administration.
  • None of the counties have indicated to any of the public sector unions that it is necessary to cut civil service employees’ salaries over the next biennium.
  • The SHOPO, the police union, and the Firefighters’ union are both in the middle of four year contracts that have salary increases of approximately 4% in each year of the biennium.  None of the counties have indicated that they would abrogate those provisions.  Also, those contracts require the employers to continue to pay 60% of the EUTF health insurance premiums.  However, if the EUTF benefits are reduced, those reductions would impact both the police officers and firefighters.
  • Last week the UHPA Collective Bargaining Committee reviewed all the efforts at reducing EUTF benefits.  They also examined changes on the campuses that would increase teaching loads through increases in class size, and other workload issues.  We are preparing counter proposals to be presented to the UH administration and the Governor in response to these conditions.
  • UHPA requested that another mediation session be called by the Federal Mediator so that we could present our proposals to the employer.
  • With the Federal Mediator’s assistance, the employer agreed to meet in a formal mediation session, now scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Friday, April 17th.   No other meetings from the Governor’s office have been requested in reference to any of most recent pronouncements concerning salary reductions.

The Governor’s public statements indicate that she wants the public employees and faculty to do the same amount of work, teach the same number of classes, continue the same level of research, acquire more external funding for UH, address the same levels of public service to the community, at salaries over the next two years less than what they are currently receiving.  This is unacceptable.  The consequences of these proposals will only drive down both the quality and substance of the university’s programs; they will also cause the state’s economy to be further depressed. 

I believe that all the public sector unions will oppose this effort to balance the state’s budget on the backs of public workers while the state has not attempted to utilize the revenue sources that are still available or seek additional revenues if they want the same level of public service, research, and educational quality.  The state continues to hold a $184 million in the Hurricane Fund, a $100 million rainy day fund, and undetermined millions in Federal relief funds.  And not to be forgotten, the university is continuing to bring in over $300 million in external funding, not counting tuition increases.  If you add in the “economic escalator” referenced often by the UH administration with regards to our institution, the work of the faculty and staff is a billion dollar enterprise to the state. 

Although the Governor has begun effort to shift the burden of financial responsibility onto the public employees, it is up to the Legislature to set the state budget.  The legislators will be put to the test in the next few months, and they do have the votes to override any veto of the Governor.  All the public sector unions are paying attention to this legislative process.

I will resume another set of campus meetings during the week of April 27th as I promised.  I am sure there will be much to report, and that much will have continued to change.  Look for notices of these meetings coming from UHPA and posted on this website.

J. N. Musto, Executive Director and Chief Negotiator

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