Friday, December 16, 2005

News from the December 13 wage negotiations

Sorry to report, but we were unable to move UMS, in the person of Joe Vivona, from his initial, best, final, and only merit pay increase offer of 2.5 percent. That will be the number we get from him next Monday (if not lower) after he has presented his UMS dog and pony show to the Gov.

It was not for lack of creative trying. Today the bargaining team presented four separate proposals that were all turned down flat.

It wasn't until the final hour that we finally realized that UMS (i.e., Joe) has a very different concept of "bargaining" than what you might find in say, the dictionary.

Here's the deal:

UMS is currently operating on a yearly $1.1 Billion budget and it won't be cut. Mr. Vivona intends to ask the Gov. for an ADDITIONAL $130 million. Joe told us that $75 million of that figure is MANDATORY increases (energy, health care, pay increases, etc.). AFSCME has the actual figures.

Within the MANDATORY $75 million increase is $27 million for staff pay increases to provide every UMS employee (staff, faculty, managers, administrators, executives, etc.) with a 2.5 percent MERIT raise. Because it would be wrong, or something, to deny the non-union freeloaders to benefit from the work of the volunteer negotiators, right? Just like last year.

So here's what we said to Joe:

"This year the state is boasting a $2.5 to 3 Billion budget surplus, yet you have glommed on to the offer AFSCME made UMS last year, a year with a very bad budget outlook. In the spirit of cooperation in tough times, last year's AFSCME merit pay demand was linked to several gloomy UMS budget guesses and maxed out our raises at 2.5 percent."

Then we asked Joe, " . . . if the Gov. agrees to your $130 million ask, or even $100 million, would UMS consider sharing that bounty with staff in the form of a 3 or 4 percent merit raise?"

Well, Joe got very angry and said that there is no fluff in his $130 million budget ask! He wouldn't lie to staff about such a serious matter. He thought we had established a relationship of trust. Blah de blah de blah.

Hmmm . . . I thought: $130 million ask minus the $75 million mandatory increases, that leaves----$55 million dollars of mad money and UM Staff deserves a fair share!!

Then the light bulb went on!

Joe is asking for money above the $75 million MANDATORY increase only for carefully defined pet projects that our manly man Gov. is sure to love. And the Gov. clearly doesn't love STATE EMPLOYEE PAY HIKES!

Joe went on to explain how UMS wants to cover the cost of increased student enrollment above the amount of increased tuition take. Why says Joe, "There are children who might be denied a college degree--children who might be the first in their families to attend college."

Okay, okay, enough already. Thank goodness he didn't mention widows and orphans--I only had one hankie.

But then Joe went on to talk about how he intended to sell the Gov. on new initiatives in nanotechnology research, stem cell research, a new institute on aging, and GET THIS!! the purchase of the Ward Duck Decoy Museum in Salisbury. Hey, I'm all for duck hunting, but (speaking of widows and orphans) shouldn't food for housekeepers' children rank higher on Joe's UMS priority budget ask list?

So here's the thing. We are going to get a 2.5 percent (or less) merit pay increase come Hell or high water. Because . . . that's all Joe intends to ask for.

That's bargaining?

Greg Johnson
President AFSCME Local 1072
University of Maryland College Park

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