Monday, September 17, 2007

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

The Carol Carrier missive to BigU employees
concerning the AFSCME strike

As momo has pointed out in the comments section of the previous post there seems to be something strange about the email that both of us (and apparently most other BigU employees) received from Ms. Carrier this afternoon, selections of which are now quoted:

Carol Carrier

to me

show details

4:41 pm (3 hours ago)

University of Minnesota Faculty and Staff:

We have brought a variety of solutions within our parameters to the bargaining process. Each time, AFSCME has rejected our proposal.

It's important to highlight the contract proposal we put forward on Friday, Sept. 14. It included recurring increases to wages of 8.5 percent for clerical and technical workers, and 9 percent for health care workers, and added lump-sum cash enhancements for all workers.

Specifically, the offer included $300 lump-sum payments in each year of the contract for 94 percent of AFSME employees who receive step increases (equaling $600 total additional dollars), and lump-sum payments of $600 in each year of the contract for employees at the top of the range (or $1200 total additional dollars).

These additional lump-sum payments were offered in order to settle the contract dispute. Unfortunately, AFSCME did not accept the offer.

The University's proposal is fair and competitive in the marketplace. It is comparable to compensation packages offered to other University bargaining unit employees.

The strikers somehow don't see the offer the same way, Ms. Carrier.

Back at the church after a couple more hours picketing, we cheered warily as our grave, stooped negotiating team members filed in. When the lead negotiator started talking, we knew why they all looked so wrecked: the University's settlement offer was exactly the same as what they offered the night before the strike began. The only difference I could discern was that the U. was offering a one-time cash payment slightly higher than their last offer – this was memorably described by one of us as a "sweater in a box".

Some of us shouted, some wept with exasperation, some glared off into space, but soon we focused on our proper target: the University administration. All the bile and rage just augmented our collective energy, forcing the negotiators to call a caucus. When they emerged an hour later, they too were furious, and ready to rejoin us for this fight. This insulting "settlement offer" was roundly rejected, by everyone. The administration's attempt to turn the striking membership against its own negotiating teams absolutely failed, and I doubt the U. will ever forget our reaction in the coming days. The strike is on. This is war.

What exactly is going on here Ms. Carrier?

From what I understand, you have offered the Teamsters a higher percentage increase as well as the step increases. Do you think AFSCME is easy pickings and that you can make them settle for less? Are you including the step increases in the percent increase calculated above as well? If so, you know that this is misleading. Please put the numbers down for all to see, rather than making it difficult for us interested bystanders to understand this situation.

Is the offer to AFSCME the same as the Teamsters? If not, why not?

As a good human resources person, I am sure you don't want to offend striking workers with arguments that don't give the whole story. You also should not insult the intelligence of people to whom you addressed your email by not giving them enough information to understand the situation. Trying to make AFSCME look bad in this matter is not going to help you with employee relations in the long run.

The administration should not be using the email system as a bully pulpit in this strike. I also object to the administration spending "university" money on an advertising campaign in this matter. You certainly don't speak for me, even though I am an alumnus and faculty member at this great university.


Mr. Bonzo

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