September 2015 Newsletter

Welcome back for Fall 2015.  As usual, things have not been uneventful over the summer. While the Board of Trustees has decided on an interim chancellor, the budget crisis and state government dramas have continued with no end in sight.  The FA leadership and bargaining team have continued working to keep up, despite the particular difficulties of the summer session.  Here are some other important developments:
SIUC Health Insurance Under Threats
It has become clearer and clearer that the current budget impasse could have disastrous effects on our health insurance coverage.
1. CMS and payments to providers
SIUC employees receive health insurance through the state government’s Central Management System (CMS).  CMS sent out an announcement today that the state budget impasse may begin affecting payments to health care providers for all state employees.  The email announcement we received was based on a (deeply buried) notice posted on the CMS website last week. The full notice is available at this address (click on “Notice regarding budget impact” under “Latest News”):
An article regarding this issue appeared today in the State Journal-Register:
The basic problem is this: without a budget, the State does not have the authority to make payments, and therefore CMS will run out of money (our best guess is in November).  Currently this funding blockage will affect state employees enrolled in self-insured plans rather than HMOs.   Several self-insured plans are not waiting for CMS to run out of money, but are already asking patrons to pay for their visits/procedures up front.  Those plans include: Cigna, Healthlink, Coventry, and Delta Dental.
The IEA and the Association will continue to monitor this situation in order to provide you with any updates.  IEA is investigating avenues to protect health insurance, but the fundamental problem remains the lack of a state budget.
2, CMS Health coverage and AFSCME Contract Negotiations
The budget impasse is also affecting current contract negotiations with the largest state employees’ union the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and these negotiations could have a major effect on our coverage in the future.  Here’s how it works: CMS health insurance coverage is set by bargaining between the state government  and AFSCME.  All SIUC employees are therefore covered by any health coverage agreement reached in the AFSCME bargaining. Our union is not able to bargain these benefits.
Unfortunately the AFSCME negotiations have not been going well.  AFSCME has stated that the state government is arguing for big cuts in general, and that proposed cuts to health insurance are amongst the deepest.  The FA does not have access to the state’s proposals, but AFSCME has calculated possible 500% increases for the employees they represent.  If this comes to pass, all SIUC employees who receive insurance through CMS will be affected, unionized or not, faculty or not.
The state has said it may lock out state employees represented by AFSCME if they do not agree to the government’s terms in contract negotiations. In response, AFSCME attempted to get legislation passed that would have changed bargaining law, putting it before a neutral arbitrator, and thereby preventing a lockout and protecting health insurance at SIUC.  The FA’s parent union, the Illinois Education Association (IEA), supported the new law, but the Governor vetoed it.  Although the State Senate overrode the veto, last week the House failed to do so by a handful of votes.
 At this point, it is not clear where AFSCME bargaining will go, but our union will be following this issue very closely. Association members called legislators before the vote in the House last week, and there may be points in the future where quick action will again be necessary.
Are you thinking about retiring?  Contact SURS now
As of January 1, 2016, the State University Retirement System (SURS) will adjust the way it calculates pensions.  This adjustment may negatively affect the amount of your annuity in the short term (especially for those using the money purchase option). If faculty want to retire soon they should decide earlier so they can maximize their options and benefits (including use of sick leave payouts). We recommend that any faculty member considering retirement in the next year contact SURS as soon as possible to calculate their pension and potential changes. You can get a handout from SURS and/or register for a Webinar on the issue (on September 23) at this address:
Contract Negotiations
Bargaining on a new contract has continued over the summer. The Association bargaining team met with the administration team, along with the FMCS facilitator, for sessions in July and August.  So far, we’ve made significant progress on Articles 9 (Program Changes) and 11 (Discipline, Dismissal, and non-Reappointment), and have reached a tentative agreement on Article 6 (Grievance Procedure).  Scheduling has been difficult, making the pace somewhat slow, but the discussions have been very constructive and collegial.  Eight more sessions are scheduled for the Fall semester.
Credit Hour Equivalency (CHE) Bargaining
As you may remember, the 2010-2014 contract mandated that all departments develop operating paper amendments to define credit hour equivalencies for indirect teaching.  Since then, amendments from a majority of departments at SIUC have been approved, and bargaining has proceeded on those that were rejected. The CHE bargaining team has continued to meet with the administration, and several more papers have now been agreed to.  But many more still remain.  The hard-working members of the Association CHE team will be reaching out to some departments with unapproved amendments to discuss the unresolved issues this semester.
The Faculty Association is now on Facebook.
The Association Membership Committee has started a Facebook page.  Search for SIUC Faculty Association: you can look there for updates and news about the Association, SIUC, and State developments.  Please visit!
Have a good semester,
Rachel Stocking
President, SIUC Faculty Association
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