Today we were introduced to a mediator from the Washington State Public Employment Relations Committee (PERC) who was unilaterally introduced to the process by UW administration. While we agreed to meet with the mediator in the interest of reaching an agreement, it slowed the process significantly as we had to spend time filling him in on our bargaining history and communicating through him rather than directly with the administration’s bargaining committee. We have seen the University Administration introduce a mediator before, and are seeing this as amounting to a strategy by the University which, while seeming neutral, actually exacerbated an unequal power dynamic that has been corroding these negotiations throughout the last two quarters of bargaining.
Miniscule Proposed Pay Raise: Today we provided a costing of our wages proposal to University Administration. Based on the metrics Admin has expressed they are the most worried about, we estimate that our wages proposal as is would cost $2.1 million dollars a year beyond what they are currently spending, or 0.00029 of the University’s annual operating budget. They responded by increasing their wage proposal from a 1% wage increase to a 1.5% wage increase for the 2018-2019 academic year, which would amount to a $34 a month increase for base rate appointments.
We expressed that this was nowhere close to being an adequate response, especially given that the soaring costs of living in the area are pushing people — particularly people of color, parents, trans people, and those from working class backgrounds — out of Seattle, out of UW, and out of academia. This is entirely inimical to a University that is premised on the promotion of “access, opportunity and justice for all.”
Trans healthcare update: Our current contract is not fully trans-inclusive when it comes to healthcare services covered by our GAIP insurance. On March 9 the bargaining committee introduced contract proposals that would make our healthcare fully trans-inclusive. The standard practice that has always been followed in our negotiations is for the employer to work with providers to determine the costs of proposed healthcare changes, and then we can negotiate over these costs. Incredibly, the university admins did not request this cost information, and claimed that the remaining 4 days of bargaining wasn’t enough time to get this information. Their attitude was similarly dismissive, and it seems they had no intention to consider our policy changes. This remains an open issue for negotiation.
Mental health update: Our current contract technically covers unlimited mental health care visits at Hall Health; however, Hall Health has an internal policy that they only offer short-term mental health support, capped at 12 visits in a year, which makes long-term sustained sessions from a single UW therapist impossible. Additionally Hall Health often has a waiting list of 4 weeks or more to meet with a therapist. Many members thus rely on other providers for long-term therapy sessions, which are currently not completely covered and are thus cost-prohibitive for long-term care. UW admin want no change to our current policy. We are demanding that UW cover the full cost of therapy sessions at all 1400+ in-network providers.