With the process now moving to the fact-finding stage, Fort Hays State University's president is breaking his silence regarding negotiations with the FHSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
"I'm pleased to be able to speak about the meet-and-confer process and the issues that have been discussed at the bargaining table," Dr. Edward H. Hammond said Wednesday. "Up to now I've honored the ground rules that both parties agreed to at the beginning of the process." The pertinent ground rule states: "4. Communications ... If either side intends to communicate with the media, it will give 48 hours notice to the other side, indicating the information to be released."
Since the FHSU Chapter of AAUP was certified by the Kansas Public Employee Relations Board and the first negotiations began in the year 2000, AAUP representatives have repeatedly spoken publicly about various issues without regard to the ground rules. "They chose to violate the ground rules during negotiations on last year's contract and again during negotiations on this year's contract," the president said. "Now that mediation has failed and we move to the fact-finding stage, we are clearly out of the meet-and-confer process for the first time since this began. Until now, I felt honor-bound to follow the ground rules even though representatives of the AAUP chose to ignore them."
The president said negotiators for the FHSU administration have tried diligently to approach the process with a positive attitude. "We chose not to file prohibited practice complaints against AAUP in the three years since we've had the bargaining unit because we believed it would be counterproductive to the process," he said. "Eleven prohibited practice complaints have been filed against us, none of which have been upheld by PERB."
The president cited ongoing use of the university's e-mail system by faculty to conduct AAUP business, which the state has declared to be an impermissible use of state property, as a potential prohibited practice. "In fact, the Kansas Board of Regents filed a prohibited practice complaint against AAUP for this violation," Hammond said. "This shows the complexity of the meet-and-confer process that most people don't understand. It's not just the administration and AAUP at the table, but also the Kansas Department of Administration and the Kansas Board of Regents who are involved in the process. Those parties have their own agendas and their own representation in the process."
President Hammond said he would comment on seven issues that AAUP representatives have chosen to discuss in the media. The first three are subjects for fact-finding.
AAUP representatives have asked for language similar to the old contract at Pittsburg State University, the only other Regents school that has a faculty bargaining unit. That contract called for a 1-percent increase in salary for faculty above what was approved by the Kansas Legislature. "This demand by FHSU's AAUP Chapter was misguided on two counts," the president explained. "First, that condition is no longer part of the Pitt State contract. Second, it's an obsolete salary schedule because Regents universities now get block grants that don't have a line item for salaries."
He said the position of the FHSU administration was to provide faculty with information about the total resources available so that sound decisions could be made about salary. "In last year's contract, this worked to the advantage of the faculty," he added. "Their increases were higher than all the other classes of employees at FHSU and higher than the faculty at the other Regents universities."
At FHSU, according to data collected from all the universities and collated by the Regents office, administrative salaries increased by an average of 3.6 percent compared to an average of 6.86 percent for faculty. "That was our proposal, which AAUP representatives rejected for six months before finally agreeing, thereby delaying distribution of the raises to our faculty," the president said.
The data show that the average increase of 6.86 percent for FHSU faculty salaries compared to an average 6.67-percent increase for faculty at Pitt State, 6.73 percent at Emporia State University, 6.37 percent at Wichita State University, 6.01 percent at Kansas State University and 6.32 percent at the University of Kansas.
In salary discussions, AAUP representatives have consistently asserted that FHSU has more administrators and pays them more than other universities in the Regents system. The facts available in the Regents office show otherwise. In all non-academic administrative areas, FHSU has fewer administrators and their average salary increases were significantly below their peers at the other Regents institutions. In Public Service, FHSU has 14 employee positions compared to 20 at ESU and 20.4 at Pitt State. In Student Affairs, FHSU has 32 employee positions compared to 54 at ESU and 42.7 at Pitt State. In Institutional Support, FHSU has 20.7 administrative positions compared to 26.4 at ESU and 25.5 at Pitt State. As would be expected, the other, larger universities -- K.U., K-State and Wichita State -- all have vastly more employees in each of these areas. The attached documents show that the salary increases were lower for FHSU administrators than for their peers at the other Regents universities in nearly all categories.
AAUP representatives also have stated repeatedly that faculty salaries at FHSU are lower than faculty salaries at Pitt State, but they ignore the mix of faculty at the two schools. Pitt State has 83 full professors -- the highest category on the pay scale -- compared to only 54 full professors at FHSU. This difference in the mixes at the two schools produces a skewed result when averages are compared for all faculty. All Kansas higher education salaries are below our out-of-state peers and the FHSU administration has vigilantly pursued and supported increases from the Kansas Legislature.
The major point of contention for this issue has been the demand by AAUP representatives for outside binding arbitration. "This has been opposed by representatives of the Kansas Department of Administration and the Kansas Board of Regents during the bargaining process, and it will be a major issue at fact-finding," President Hammond said. "The biggest problem that FHSU administration representatives have faced has been that AAUP has offered three different recommendations. This is an example of the difficulty AAUP has had. Its representatives are full-time professors with other demands on their time that prevent them from organizing a single proposal."
Reduction in Force
The president said the "reduction in force" issue, which addresses the policy to be followed if faculty positions have to be cut, was tied to the grievance procedure and therefore ultimately to the question of outside binding arbitration, which has been rejected by the administrative team.
The president also discussed four other issues that have been addressed during negotiations but have been removed from the table and will not be subject to fact-finding.
Proration on Supplemental Contracts
This issue addresses the formula for how faculty should be paid for work outside their normal contract, especially for teaching distance education classes through FHSU's Virtual College. AAUP representatives initially requested discussion of that issue but all parties have since agreed to follow the existing proration process.
"It is important to note that supplemental contracts will provide almost $1 million to faculty this year above the salary figures mentioned earlier," the president said. "The Virtual College has provided excellent opportunities for our faculty to earn additional salaries that would not be available at most other universities in the country."
AAUP representatives asked that a set amount of money be given to each faculty member for travel. The position of the FHSU administration was to provide flexibility in the Other Operating Expenses Budget -- the major part of the university budget other than salaries -- for faculty travel, supplemented with $14,000 from the Faculty and Staff Development Fund.
"At FHSU, we don't have a line item for out-of-state travel," President Hammond explained. "As a result, even though the Kansas Legislature in both fiscal year 2002 and fiscal year 2003 cut out-of-state travel for state agencies, there has not been a decline in the resources for faculty travel at FHSU. The administration believed all along it was in the faculty's best interest not to have a line item and therefore retain flexibility to support travel as resources permit."
AAUP representatives asked that faculty costs for medical benefits be maintained at 2002 rates. "What they didn't consider is that those rates are negotiated by the Kansas State Health Commission and are not an item that can be controlled by the administration," the president said. "Once they realized that, they asked to remove this issue from the table."
Duration of Contract
AAUP representatives have asked for a three-year contract. The president said that because of the uncertain budget environment, the FHSU administration believed it would be inappropriate to enter into more than a one-year contract. The AAUP has now agreed to a one-year term.
"I hope this factual discussion of the issues will help the public understand what is happening in the meet-and-confer process that is set out by Kansas statutes," Hammond said. "The FY03 contract will be finalized by the Board of Regents after it receives a report from the fact-finder."
Representatives for all the parties will begin negotiations on the FY04 contract on Feb. 1. From Feb. 1 to March 15, all parties at the table can introduce topics for negotiation and the meet-and-confer process will recommence at that time.
President Hammond also offered some general observations about the impact of the meet-and-confer process at Fort Hays State University.
"After two years of working in this environment, I know that the administrative team has participated in and fully supports the bargaining process. I also believe the process disadvantages faculty for several reasons:
* "First, the negotiators for the AAUP are full-time faculty members and it's difficult for them to meet their professional academic responsibilities and still have time to prepare and participate in such formal discussions.
* "Second, the timing of these negotiations does not lend itself to resolution in order to provide new contracts to faculty in a timely manner.
* "Third, the meet-and-confer process is resource intensive, costly in time and talent of all involved, and in tight budget years its cost does not justify the results.
* "And finally, fourth, the process keeps me from meeting and negotiating with all faculty through the Faculty Senate and in other venues as I did during my first 13 or 14 years here, because Kansas statutes do not allow me to discuss issues that involve conditions of employment with faculty outside the meet-and-confer process. Faculty have indicated to me that they feel disenfranchised. They don't know what's going on, but this process has tied my hands and limited open communication.