By Liz Smith, PSU member
After months of stalled negotiations, in June PSU filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Department of Labor Relations over the issue of converting PSU positions to jobs with a private nonprofit organization. Specifically, the complaint requests that more than 20 positions currently housed under the University of Massachusetts Amherst Foundation (UMAF), the private fundraising arm of the campus, be returned to PSU.
For the past year, PSU has been working to resolve this significant unit erosion issue within the Advancement division on the Amherst campus. Advancement has been using UMAF, a private, non-union organization, to hire at will employees for positions that should rightly be PSU and non-unit state positions. The complaint was filed because this practice threatens the unit as a whole and creates a dangerous precedent in privatizing state positions that are represented by unions.
Currently, UMAF employees do not have the same hard-fought benefits enjoyed by their PSU colleagues, creating a two-tiered system within Advancement. These benefits include just cause and due process for termination or discipline, the ability to file grievances, representation by the union, and access to the sick leave bank, among many others. UMAF employees are also denied benefits received by state employees such as vesting in the state pension system and the multiple health care options provided under the GIC. Unlike PSU employees, foundation employees are at will. They can be fired or laid off at any time, for any reason, without due process, despite doing the same work and, in many cases, having the exact same job titles, managers, responsibilities, and work locations.
PSU is also working to clarify reporting structures within Advancement. At present, many Advancement PSU employees are supervised by a UMAF employee. PSU is demanding that all unit employees report directly to state employees who can be held accountable by our contract with the university.
Since the filing of the unfair labor practice charge, the campus administration has come to the bargaining table several times to meet with PSU. The next step in the process, if an agreement cannot be reached, is an investigative hearing by the state Department of Labor Relations. The hearing is scheduled for January.
If you have any questions or concerns or are aware of privatization of unit work in other areas of the Amherst or Boston campus, contact: email@example.com.
Originally Published in PSU Strong - Vol. 2. No. 2, December 2019