University of Vermont

Informed Choice at The University of Vermont

Work Conditions

Work Conditions

I'm concerned about job security. Can a union protect me from the threat of job loss through reorganization or downsizing?

No union can guarantee that an employer will not lay off employees. Downsizing or reorganization may occur for any number of reasons, but usually because an organization needs to bring its expenses in line with expected resources or when there is a strategic shift in direction. A union typically cannot stop downsizing from occurring. Downsizing is usually viewed as a management decision and many unionized employers have undertaken significant downsizing. Sometimes, despite best efforts, involuntary layoffs may have to occur. Downsizing and reorganizations occur in unionized settings as well as non-unionized settings.

During a collective bargaining process, guidelines for downsizing, such as priorities for layoffs, severance, reinstatement rights and other matters can be discussed. These guidelines are negotiable and no one can predict how they will look in a contract. However, UVM already has these processes in place for non-represented employees and they have been sensitive to the needs of University staff.

[Photo from UVM Campus]

I work in a grant-funded position. Can a union protect my job?

When a grant or a contract expires, the funding for that position is no longer available to the University. The union brings no new money to the table and no one can guarantee the outcome of negotiations.

If I have a grievance with the University over my working conditions, would there be any difference under a union contract?

A union would be free to negotiate a grievance procedure with the University and that procedure may or may not be different than the Grievance and Mediation Policy for Non-Represented Staff. However, you should be aware that even without a union, you have the right to take a grievance to the Vermont Labor Relations Board if you are not satisfied with the way the University dealt with a matter, and the Labor Board would decide the case. Over the years, a number of University employees, both represented and non-represented, have taken their cases to the Labor Board. Even with a union, all grievances must still go to the same Vermont Labor Relations Board for final resolution.

Unionization means dignity and respect to me. If I join the union, I expect I will be treated with dignity and that means a lot to me—maybe even more than the amount of money I receive for my work.

All employees are worthy of respect from their colleagues when they do their best to accomplish the tasks of their job. Recognition for a job well done should not be withheld. However, respect is not something that can be written into a union contract. Respect for individual differences and an appreciation of the gifts people bring to the job are part of everyday goodwill and civility. A union cannot guarantee that it can align good manners, respect and trust with individual behaviors. Respect comes from individual human interactions and depends on open and direct communication, competent supervisors, routes of redress that are clear, and opportunities for training and professional development. When UVM staff believe they are not receiving due respect in their work, there are many resources available including discussing the matter with their supervisor and/or their unit’s HR Rep, with an Employee Advisor in Human Resource Services, or with the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). There are many ways employees can express their concerns including open forums, Staff Council meetings, Learning Services' offerings, just to name a few. Respect means careful listening to the views of others. There are those in every organization who do not listen well, but considering how communications work here at the University, we are fortunate to have an extraordinarily open process in which every person has the right to participate.

Would a union give me better protection against the possibility of being fired?

Right now the University is already bound by the “just cause” provisions of the State Employees Labor Relations Act (SELRA) and under these provisions, if you were fired, you could have your case heard by the Labor Board. This is somewhat unique since most non-unionized employees do not have this kind of protection. The “just cause” standard is generally considered to be the best protection for employees since the employer must prove fair and appropriate grounds for discharge. It is unlikely that a union contract would offer any greater protection than the “just cause” standard that is already in place for University employees.

Can a union bargain over who our supervisors are?

The selection of supervisors is considered to be a management decision and is not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Therefore, the answer is "no."

I've worked out a flex schedule with my supervisor. Will I lose that option if I join a union?

Currently, a manager or supervisor may, at his/her discretion, develop an alternative work schedule with an individual employee in accordance with University guidelines. There is no entitlement to such a schedule and the decision by the manager or supervisor is not grievable. Should you become a member of a collective bargaining unit, alternative work schedules may be a topic of collective bargaining, depending on the union’s platform for negotiations. No one can say what the union might propose, nor can anyone predict the outcome of negotiations.