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Monday, October 6, 2008

The contract

I attended the Union Reps meeting last Friday. At the meeting I spoke in favor of accepting the contract. After the meeting I voted to reject it. Today, I think I'll have a beer. I now know what Harry Truman meant when he said he wanted a one-handed economist. They always said on the one hand we could do this, but on the other hand we could do that. Let me give you a few examples.

First, let us examine health care. One the one hand it is going to be more expensive. On the other hand, it is more expensive everywhere and after this next election it will likely change in some meaningful ways no matter who gets elected. I might note here that this contract will require my wife to get health care at her place of employment for over $170 per month. On the other hand, almost no employer has this benefit anymore. I thank our negotiating team for keeping it as long as they have. No, we do not know which network will be offered. This seems strange given the amount of time the administration has had to find someone. On the other hand, they have said it will be Frontpath or Medical Mutual. On the other hand, no one in the western world gets that choice but perhaps us. If you are healthy, and have no major changes in your coverage requirements, the cost for the next three years may actually be more than convered by the January payment.

Second, was the discussion over grant payments. I have to admit that a large grant in the Communication Department involves having someone else pay for lunch. I know almost nothing and I believe the Union needs to do a better job of explaining what is really involved here and who benefits.

The third issue involved merit pay. Frankly, this is silly. When the merit is so little, all it does it create hard feelings within a department over what amounts to nickels and dimes. I also realize that the history of Dean's merit is somewhat suspect and as a result most people do not like the idea. I have no real problem with it as long as that money does not come out of monies that may have been applied to the across the board payments.

The real problem with the health care and Dean's merit goes back to the issue of trust. Frankly, I have been given few reasons to trust this administration or any other for that matter. Rumor has it that someone on their negotiating team is gloating over the health care because they said it would be negotiated with all three unions at that same time and then they, the administration, settled with the other two. That pretty much tied the hands of our group although they were still able to gain concessions. This is NOT the way to build a trusting environment.

There are good things in this contract. The raises are reasonable given the present economy. Although I have been here for 21 years and that excuse has been used since I arrived. The raises for promotion now make a promotion worth getting. There is an early retirement package. It's just there's still that little voice whispering in my ear about trust. Go to the meetings. Ask questions. Perhaps I'm just paranoid. But as they say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you.

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