Faculty express concern over changes to collective bargaining law

For most of DMACC faculty members, as well as many other public-sector employees, collective bargaining agreements had served as a mediator between unions and their employers. However, a bill that has gone through the Iowa legislative system and was signed by Gov. Terry Branstad Feb. 17 intends to dampen most of the effects of the current collective bargaining law.

Collective bargaining is set up to allow union-workers’ representatives to negotiate things such as pay and health insurance on their behalf. The new law scales back the effects of collective bargaining for most public-sector employees to only encompass pay. Other benefits such as healthcare and sick leave cannot be negotiated between unions and their employers.

For DMACC faculty members, the Higher Education Association (HEA) represents them regarding all union-related issues whether it be simple disputes with the administration or determining base pay.

The previous collective bargaining system made it so that all those issues can be negotiated for the faculty by the HEA without individuals having to face the administration by themselves.

 

The new collective bargaining law only allows negotiation of base pay and not other benefits like healthcare or sick leave.

It modifies certain safeguards, giving employers the ability to fire an employee without cause.

Philosophy Professor Dr. Jason Hills, president of the HEA at DMACC, pointed this out and expressed his concern for its effect, saying that, “In the past, you had to have a reason to fire someone beyond a probationary period, but it (the bill) takes out that protection, and you can fire them for any reason whatsoever.”

English Professor Judy Hauser also shares this concern because, “We already have a process to get rid of teachers in the first three years who are not performing well.”

Hills said that because of this prospect, it is very worrisome for most faculty members, as it makes them increasingly unlikely to go to the administration with a complaint for fear of their job; something that in the past the HEA would be able to do in their behalf it the complaint was founded.

The law also excludes seniority rules from collective bargaining contract negotiations. Seniority rules make it so that if in the instance a faculty member needs to be fired, outside of infractions and other marks that are outstanding, the first people to go are those that have been a faculty member the shortest amount of time.

Without any sort of seniority rules procedure, faculty can be fired not only for any reason whatsoever, but also without considering the length of your employment.

DMACC Vice President Kim Linduska said seniority and terms of transfer will need to be sat down and talked about between the benefits committee and the union due to the changes made in collective bargaining legislation.

Faculty are also concerned about changes to the healthcare plan, which is no longer a part of collective bargaining. Benefits Coordinator Gloria Neppl believes it’s too early to tell about the changes that would be made to current healthcare benefits, as collective bargaining groups would be unable to now negotiate new contract agreements.

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