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Human Resources begins negotiations in partnership with bargaining unit
Human Resources begins negotiations in partnership with bargaining unitMay 18, 2004Matthew R. Snydermrsnyder@syr.edu
As Syracuse University’s current labor agreement with the Service Employees International Union moves toward its June 30 expiration date, negotiations on the next collective bargaining agreement are well under way, having formally kicked off in late April.
Before that, Human Resources began communicating with bargaining unit staff and the rest of the campus community about the upcoming negotiations via the Staff Relations Update newsletter; the publication’s February edition detailed the history of SU labor negotiations and outlined in broad strokes the coming negotiation process. According to Jack Matson, director of staff relations and recruitment, such information-sharing is critical.
“One of the key things we’ve learned from past negotiations is that factual information is one of the most important tools for all parties to the process,” says Matson. “Information-sharing is important to dispel rumors, keep interested parties apprised of progress and move negotiations forward with minimal disruption.”
The focus on communication was evident in the University’s most recent negotiation, which was completed successfully in 2001 with substantial changes to 22 contract articles or letters of understanding through both parties’ collaborative efforts. That negotiation began with a formal communication plan involving the entire campus community, and the effort to build and maintain a strong working relationship through information sharing continues in 2004 with labor/management discussions, supervisor forums and other communication tools.
The communications plan for 2004 again relies in part on the Staff Relations Update; its April issue set the timeline for negotiations and invited the University community to view updates at http://humanresources.syr.edu/bunit. Preliminary meetings were held in late April, and official negotiation meetings between the University and the union began on May 10, focusing on non-economic policies and practices before moving on to economic issues of wages and benefits.
Aside from the current meetings, another forum for communication between bargaining unit staff and management has been the Workplace Partnership Council, a facilitated labor/management forum that has met regularly since 2001 to identify and resolve issues before they become workplace problems. The WPC’s problem-solving teams have signed two letters of understanding prior to the beginning of the negotiation period, resolving issues related to the treatment of trainee-level employees in the event of layoffs and the overtime pay of trainees. The WPC has also streamlined the performance evaluation process for bargaining unit employees during their 45-day probationary period or trial period following hire, promotion or transfer. The new process ensures accurate and timely feedback and supervisors have been trained to use it.
Further negotiation sessions between HR and union representatives will take place throughout the months of May and June; the schedule calls for contract negotiations to conclude and the ratification vote to be held prior to the June 30 deadline.