05/21/18: Union Prevails to Stop Reductions in Short-Term Disability/Were You Affected?

Dear Colleagues:

The University Administration decided that it would help its balance sheet if it reduced the health benefits for our bargaining unit members unilaterally. In due course, the Union filed a grievance on the issue. The Arbitrator's decision was in favor of the Union and against the Administration. The Union would like to bring to your attention how this important arbitration decision prevented a significant loss of your benefits.

The Case

In Fall 2016, the Administration unilaterally implemented a reduction in the benefits members receive under Short-Term Disability (AKA, Illness Bank or "Sick Days"). Previously, when a bargaining unit member used their six-months disability during an illness and returned to work at the end of the period, the member reacquired the six-month disability benefit within a year after returning to full-time employment.

The Administration decided to reduce the number of days that would replenish so that only a maximum of 22 days, or 165 hours, would return per year as of a member's hire-in anniversary date. This meant that the member would have to wait for six years to reacquire their full six-month disability benefit (990 hours). Previously, members had reacquired their entire maximum bank within a year. The Administration's proposal was a significant reduction in member benefits, and could be a serious financial loss for members using their Short-Term Disability rights.

The Union grieved the change. Unable to reach a resolution with the Administration, we took the case to arbitration. After hearing both sides, the Arbitrator ruled that the Administration's actions violated well established past practice, and were not permissible given our contract language. He ordered the Administration cease the new practice, and make any member whole for any losses.

Were You Negatively Affected?

The Union is, therefore, looking to identify any member who may have been denied sick leave after August 15, 2016, because of the Administration's improper actions. We ask that if you think you may have been affected, or know a co-worker who may have been, to please contact the Union Office.

The Lesson

The Administration is legally obligated to negotiate with a recognized Union changes to wages, hours and working conditions, particularly if there is an established past practice. Non-Represented employees also received a similar reduction, but, without a Union, they had no recourse effectively to counter the change.

(View the relevant contract language, Article XIII.C.1)




Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313-577-1750