UHPA Requests Cease and Desist to Governor and UH

Dear Governor Ige, President Lassner, and Board of Regents:

As the public employers defined in Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), §89-6(d)(4), for the purposes of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for Unit 7 Faculty Members of the University of Hawaii (UH), the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) submits this written letter in response to the Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Civil Beat Article entitled “Ige Plans Furloughs For Public Workers In November.”   

Over the past several months, numerous public statements, news articles, resolutions, and internal UH communications have been announced and published about unilaterally imposing furloughs, wage cuts, and job reductions for State employees, impacting Unit 7 Faculty Members.  As all of you are aware, we have an active and mutually agreed upon Unit 7 collective bargaining agreement for the duration of July 1, 2017 through and including June 30, 2021.  While we acknowledge that Article XVI, Retrenchment, has been negotiated and agreed upon to address fiscal exigency for the UH, furloughs, wage cuts, and job reductions are all mandatory subjects of bargaining under HRS, §89-9(a), and cannot be unilaterally imposed unless it is mutually agreed to by the parties.  To date, the public employers have not properly notified the UHPA of any request to engage in mid-term bargaining under HRS, §89-9(b), in an attempt to negotiate and obtain mutual agreement over these additional concepts.  While the Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Civil Beat Article, does not identify Unit 7 Faculty Members to be subject to this unilateral imposition of furloughs, it also doesn’t exclude them from the impact. 

What I do want to make crystal clear is that UHPA has never been approached by any of the public employers with specific mid-term proposals to bargaining over furloughs, wage cuts, and reductions during the entire term of our existing contract. In addition, UHPA has refrained from publicly responding to these statements, articles, and UH communications since we believe it is not aligned with the intent and purpose or HRS, §89-1, as well as, Regents Policy RP 9.203, Collective Bargaining.  Nevertheless, the constant and relentless messaging of unilateral impositions of mandatory bargainable subjects is causing tremendous fear, anxiety, and apprehension for UHPA Unit 7 Faculty Members which is not helpful during these unprecedented times.  While UHPA does recognize the State’s dire economic situation in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, this pattern of negotiating in the media is neither “respectful” nor “appropriate.”  We acknowledge that there will unfortunately be significant negative impacts and hard decisions to be made, the statutory defined process outlined in HRS, Chapter 89, is what all parties are required to follow.  

Therefore, I respectfully request that all public employers cease and desist from any further public statements, news articles, and internal UH communications speaking on this matter unless it is clearly stated and defined that it does not apply to Unit 7 Faculty Members.  If it is the public employer’s intent to propose such measures, we respectfully request that the public employer follow the statutory process under HRS, Chapter 89, and uphold and comply with its own Regents Policy RP 9.203, Collective Bargaining.

Thank you for your time and attention to this sensitive matter.

Sincerely,

Christian L. Fern

Executive Director

Your voice made the difference at Thurday’s BOR meeting

Our Collaborative Effort Made a Difference: BOR Votes to Defer Premature Resolution

At yesterday’s July 16th  Board of Regents meeting, UHPA and UH faculty successfully sent a strong message to Regent Chair Benjamin Kudo that struck a chord with the Regents.  

Through the collaborative efforts of UHPA, HGEA, Academic Labor United, and UH faculty and students, we made Chair Kudo stop in his tracks. We collectively presented a strong, unified voice to defend the University and forestall a requirement by the UH Board of Regents for the UH administration to develop a short-term plan of action to address the financial impact of COVID-19 by next month — without the benefit of input from UHPA and the faculty.

A Thousand Individuals, One Strong Voice

Nearly a thousand individuals submitted testimony in opposition to UH Board of Regents Chair Benjamin Kudo’s ill-conceived resolution and proposed letter to Gov. David Ige. Fortunately, the other Board of Regents listened to the concerns raised by faculty and others, and realized the resolution was premature and conceived in a vacuum. 

Vote Defers Resolution; Withdraws Letter to the Governor

The result of mobilizing quickly paid off. The Board of Regents unanimously voted to defer Resolution 20-03 and to withdraw Chair Kudo’s letter to the Governor, which sought to defer the negotiated pay raises of faculty and other public-sector union members  It was an important achievement for all of us. 

Collective Bargaining 101

The live-streamed meeting exposed Chair Kudo’s deficient understanding of collective bargaining and the role of the Board of Regents as an employer in the legal process of reaching an agreement. 

All of the written and oral testimonials enlightened the Regents about their legal obligation to comply with collective bargaining agreements. They publicly acknowledged faculty for stepping forward to raise their concerns and recognized the importance of faculty input on the resolution. UHPA and faculty will now have the opportunity to work with the Board of Regents to work on a revised resolution for consideration next month.

Continuing the Momentum

We are off to a good start, but this is by no means the end of this battle. It has become painfully clearer what we are up against. We must contend with a group that does not play by the rules because they do not know the rules. We must remain vigilant and cannot let our guard down.

Mahalo again for everyone’s support, especially to Randy Perreira, Executive Director of HGEA and his members throughout the UH system, Academic Labor United, and the many UH students and community members for coming together and providing a unified voice to support and defend our University.  We appreciate everyone’s kōkua!

Agreement reached over Covid-19 impacts on promotion, tenure and renewal.

Agreement reached with President and Governor over Covid-19 impacts on promotion, tenure and contract renewal 

Last week the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with President David Lassner and Governor David Ige on addressing the possible negative consequences and impacts the unanticipated switch to on-line instruction due to COVID-19 may have on tenure, promotion, and contract renewal.  

Agreement result of combined efforts

These concerns were raised by UHPA Faculty Members who are serving on Temporary Work Group which was a combined effort of the UHPA and UH Administrators to discuss health and safety issues, as well as making sure Faculty Members received the required support, services, resources, etc. to help with the transition to on-line instruction and other conditions as they have arised.  The Faculty Members recognized how adverse and negative the Spring 2020 semester could have in the areas of tenure, promotion, and contract renewal processes which are based on face-to-face evaluations, peer evaluations, student evaluations, application deadlines, research endeavors, and other related measures.  

Exemplary decision making via the collective bargaining process

“The Temporary Work Group epitomizes the intent of Hawaii’s collective bargaining law, by providing for joint decision-making; having employees granted a right to share in the decision-making process; and having a venue to exchange ideas and information with administrators to help the government become more effective and responsive in these unprecedented times.”  Christian Fern, UHPA Executive Director

Highlights of the MOU

  1. Faculty Members employed during the Spring 2020 semester may elect to extend their probationary period for an additional year, but not to exceed eight (8) years;
  2. Faculty Members expected to undergo contract renewal in the Fall 2020 semester may elect to extend their contact and postpone their contract renewal by one year; and
  3. Faculty Members or Lecturers holding multi-year limited term contracts in Spring 2020 who are up for contract renewal and who are not being paid via extramural funds will be extended for one (1) additional year.

The temporary work group consists of Faculty Members and UH Administrators and has continued to meet on a weekly basis since Spring Break.  

 

Faculty Working From Home

Message from UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern and UH Vice President Don Straney on behalf of the UHPA-UH Joint Workgroup

This message is to clarify the University’s intent regarding its new “work from home” form and its application to University faculty. To reiterate, instructional faculty (including lecturers), research faculty, graduate assistants, and other faculty who are not normally expected to be on campus during set working hours, are not required to fill out the work from home form or create a work from home plan. These employees also are not required to input their status as “Covid-19 Work From Home” in the online leave system. Faculty who, under normal conditions, are required to have a physical presence on campus during set working hours (for example, Librarians, or some Specialist Faculty), are the only faculty expected to fill out the work from home form (and the online leave system) to indicate the days they will be working from home or on-campus. Because the Covid-19 Work From Home status in the online leave system was intended to apply to all University employees working from home, including our hourly employees, it includes an “hours” and “minutes” data field; however, these fields are not intended to apply to faculty. The intent was not to “keep track of” faculty’s work.

The campuses may request faculty to self-report when they will physically be on campus. Again, the intent is not to keep track of faculty’s work, but for logistical purposes of tracking building use. If buildings are not being used, or are only partially being used, the campus may be able to close certain buildings or portions of buildings and reduce custodial and other services to those buildings. We appreciate the cooperation that faculty have shown in this regard, and ask that you continue to help us assist our facilities’ staff in dealing with the emergency situation as best we can.

If you have any questions regarding this memo, please contact your designated campus human resources department.

Message from UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern and UH Vice President Don Straney on behalf of the UHPA-UH Joint Workgroup

Last week, the Temporary Remote Teaching Workgroup—a combined effort of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and UH administrators—met to review the support and resources available to faculty preparing for the transition to working with students who were not on campus. Several recent proclamations from the Governor and Mayors probably made your preparations more challenging. This week, we have been monitoring the initial stages of implementing last week’s planning on each of the 10 UH campuses.

The initial reports are that you have made a great start on this new mode of working at UH. We have heard from faculty on each campus and from some of their administrators how the first two days have gone. There have been issues, glitches, and problems for sure, but far fewer than one might have expected. The resources and mini-courses provided by instructional designers last week are definitely paying off. Most impressive to us have been the reports of faculty pitching in to help one another: explaining to colleagues how to use Zoom, offering advice on posting videos to YouTube, even videotaping each other performing lab experiments for students to critique and analyze. Librarians, advisors and other faculty supporting student learning have also had to adapt to delivering services in a climate of uncertainty about health and safety. The hard work of last week (and it has only been that long) is beginning to pay off for our students. Your professionalism, creativity and commitment to the students will carry the University of Hawai‘i community through this difficult time.

We have heard reports that some people are uncertain if they can come to campus under the current stay-at-home orders. People who provide education can leave home to come to campus for work. Instructors should feel free to use their offices and the various teaching resources on campus, including HITS classrooms. The campuses are implementing all of the CDC recommendations to maintain a safe work environment and the facilities staff have stepped up the cleaning protocols to meet current needs. The University is providing any protective equipment your work requires and you should talk with your department chair or supervisor if you have concerns, questions, or ideas.

One common report in the past few days has been that students are not all fully engaging with remotely-delivered classes and don’t always respond to instructors’ or advisors’ emails. It is important to continue reaching out to your students to help keep them engaged with the university. We have also heard of increased interactions students are having in some classes, where chat boxes, for example, make it easier for them to ask questions and interact with each other. Engaging students with learning tasks has always been the challenge for instructing, advising, or supporting learning but current situations are making it more difficult while also presenting new opportunities.

The working group will continue to meet over the next few weeks so faculty and administrators can provide input to each other on how the semester is progressing and what issues, concerns and problems arise. Please don’t hesitate to contact us via our email address with concerns you have.

UHPA Update on COVID-19 Working Conditions

On Friday, March 13, 2020, UHPA met with UH administrators and voiced our concerns for the health and safety of our membership as a whole, as well as, making sure all Faculty Members received the required support, services, resources, etc. to help with the transition to on-line instruction, as well as, other conditions as they may arise. UH agreed with UHPA that a working group should commence immediately to address these concerns that UHPA raised and jointly noticed all Faculty Members of the establishment of the working group and an email address to allow all Faculty Members to share their concerns to the working group – which consists of UHPA and UH representatives.

The working group includes eleven (11) Faculty Members. In constructing the committee, UHPA wanted to ensure that we had broad representation, and included a total of four (4) Faculty Members, including two (2) Librarians, that are non-instructional. The working group has been meeting daily since Tuesday, March 17, 2020 and will continue to meet on a regular basis in order to address the multitude of questions, concerns, and seeking clarification over the numerous messages that have been issued by our State’s government leaders. UHPAʻs goal is to obtain all the necessary information on these issues so that we can collectively, with the UH, provide a list of Q&A’s on these topics and seeking commitments from the UH to provide a safe workplace as required by OSHA rules and regulations.

UHPA’s position is that we need to ensure that all Faculty Members are provided with all available resources, services, and support in helping them transition to on-line instruction. We also want to ensure that all Faculty Members who continue to teach courses, programs, and classes that require face-to-face instruction, as well as non-instructional faculty that will remain on campus for their duties, have access to the required resources, services, and support to protect their health and safety needs. In this regard, we are ensuring that any and all recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are being recognized and will be implemented by UH on this matter. The CDC recommendations are changing and evolving. The links here are the most up to date issued by the CDC on this subject:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/workplace-school-and-home-guidance.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-ihe-response.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf

It is important to point out that instructional faculty have not been assigned to “work from home.” What has changed for them is that students will no longer meet with them in person in a classroom. The joint committee has been working to identify issues and are looking for different ways that they can engage in and develop ways to teach their classes in other modes. All non-instructional faculty can utilize the voluntary work-from-home process announced by President Lassner last week, if such accommodations are available.

The University has shared the COVID-19 Work-From-Home Request form. This form should be completed by non-instructional faculty members solely to be used as a means to document their request and ability to work from home.

The situation is constantly evolving, and we will be sure to send updates based upon directives from the Federal, State or County officials.

We are still in discussions with the UH Administration through this working group on addressing all of these concerns, inclusive of UHPA’s concerns over the health and safety of it’s membership, and we will continue to meet and function as a working group to collaboratively address these issues as they arise.

UHPA Responds to UH’s Online Conversion

UHPA Executive Director Christian Fern responds to UH President David Lassner’s email regarding the plans for online course conversion.

200312 Ltr to D. Lassner re COVID-19

Latest administrative salaries published

UHPA’s 2018 edition of UH Administrator salaries has been published with data as of March 2018.  The interactive database lets you easily sort and filter on by campus or division.  UHPA Executive Director Kristeen Hanselman suggests that you “Take some time to see what various administrators earn and how they are valued by the Board of Regents.”

 

 

New Faculty Rights! Your Letter of Hire Enforceable through the Collective Bargaining Agreement

On January 24, 2017 UHPA and UH concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on Letters of Hire. This was 16 months in the making and provides that items that are bargainable contained within a letter of hire can be enforced through the grievance procedure, including arbitration.

Key Provisions

  • All Unit 7 members must receive a written letter of hire.
  • Letters of Hire shall contain all terms and conditions of employment offered and accepted by the faculty member. No undocumented promise is enforceable.
  • All documents relating to the terms of hire shall be provided and attached to the letter of hire.
  • UHPA shall receive all letters of hire and may grieve violations of the collective bargaining agreement.
  • UH must consult with UHPA on hiring policies and procedures.

Implementation

  • UHPA and the UH administration will be discussing templates that create clarity and consistency in letters of hire based on the respective campus needs. UH Manoa, due to the number of hires and complexity of issues, will be reviewed first.
  • As faculty members are engaged in hiring committees the collective bargaining agreement and the MOU on Letters of Hire should be given to potential new employees.

Always contact UHPA if you ever have questions or issues with your Letter of Hire.

Letters of Hire Actually Mean Something Now and the Promise of an MRI is Achieved

Dr. Bennett wins!

Dr. Kevin Bennett, whose fight to enforce his letter of hire included a grievance, an HLRB case, an agency appeal to Circuit Court, and the possibility of a new lawsuit in Circuit Court, has resulted in a robust settlement. The University will provide the MRI System and a functional laboratory that will allow the Dr. Bennett to continue his research and expand that which can occur in Hawaii.

Dispute over Letter of Hire promises

Dr. Bennetts was recruited to the University of Hawaii due to his work on early diagnosis of kidney disorders and his ability to establish and operate an MRI center that would enhance the work of other faculty members and allow his research to expand. Arriving in 2013 and believing that the University would provide the necessary equipment and support as agreed to in a letter of hire, Dr. Bennett proceeded to work toward the procurement of the MRI. While there were problems obtaining the original equipment, an alternative MRI was identified and the procurement process was proceeding. In Fall 2015, Dr.Bennett was informed by the Interim Dean of Natural Science that the equipment would not be purchased. The University contended that the letter of hire was not binding and could be unilaterally altered.

Dispute resolved by Dr. Bennett’s resolve

On January 24, a settlement was reached between Dr. Bennett, the University, and UHPA that ends the dispute and results in the necessary support for Dr. Bennett in advancing his work.

In addition to Dr. Bennett prevailing in his specific case, UHPA and UH have agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding on Letters of Hire. These two settlements could not have been achieved without the commitment of Dr. Bennett and the UHPA Board of Directors to hold firm in their convictions that the University must honor its commitments to faculty members.