A handful of protesters held signs outside the Multipurpose Building Friday and Saturday, bringing awareness to what they believe is an inequity in pay for many UCM employees.
The Missouri Education Workers, a labor organization that represents some of the university’s employees, coordinated the informative demonstration “to bring attention to the poverty-level wages paid to the workers,” according to a news release. Some five or six protestors turned out each day.
“We have single mothers working full time at the university who qualify for several government assistance programs,” said Terry Neal, president MEW local No. 1.
Neal said the demonstration was scheduled for this weekend because of the increase in the number of people in Warrensburg for graduation.
MEW representatives attempted to negotiate a wage increase for UCM staff, but university representatives walked out of negotiations and refused to discuss any increase in wages, according to an MEW news release.
Neal said there had been two previous discussions and at the third, on March 5, the university representatives walked out. He said there have been no further discussions between MEW and UCM.
Ranea Taylor, associate vice president of human resources, is on the UCM Bargaining Team that met with MEW representatives in the meet-and-confer process.
She said the members of the bargaining team did not walk out of any of the meet-and-confer meetings. However, she said after multiple meetings with representatives of MEW, there was never anything formally submitted for the UCM Bargaining Team to discuss.
“During the meet-and-confer process, there was never anything that was reduced to writing that represented a request,” she said. “There was no formalized request made. There was discussion about salaries and comparison of salaries to other institutions, but (MEW) never brought forward a request. The requirement is that we meet in good faith, and after several sessions of the same information without a request coming forward, there was no reason to continue holding meet-and-confers.”
Executive Vice President and COO Roger Best confirmed the university has not received any formal written request or proposal.
Neal maintains that MEW representatives were unable to submit a formal written proposal because university representatives did not give them a chance.
“They walked out of the meeting,” he said. “You can’t give it to somebody if they’re not there. I can hand it to you, but if you’re not there to accept it, I can’t give it to anybody.”
The MEW news release also states that university staff have no opportunity for advancement because UCM does not provide step or longevity wage increases.
Taylor said it is true the university does not have step or longevity wage increases, where an employee would earn a wage increase at regular intervals over time. However, she said the statement there is no opportunity for advancement is not accurate.
“The university does not do an old step-and-grade compensation system,” she said. “The old step and grades were tied to length in time in job and did not reflect how you performed in job.”
Taylor said implementing wage increases based on the duration of one’s employment in the university’s current financial climate would be a detriment to merit-based wage increases.
“There are a lot of gaps in the step-and-grade process, which limit your flexibility to pay somebody for the work they’re really doing,” she said. “You’re stuck in that, ‘You’re at level one, step one, that’s what you’re going to make for three years.’ UCM does not want to subscribe to such a restrictive model.”
Neal said UCM has not provided a cost-of-living increase for the staff since 2008.
Best said the board of governors approved an increase in the university’s minimum wage on July 1, 2016, to $10 per hour for full-time employees. The minimum wage in Missouri is $7.85 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
According to a document provided by University Relations, there will be no across-the-board wage increases in the 2018-2019 academic year, and there were no across-the-board wage increases in the 2017-2018 academic year.
However, there were across-the-board wage increases in 2011-2016, except for 2013, of 1-2 percent or $600, whichever was greater.
MEW claims in the news release that UCM President Chuck Ambrose is the second-highest compensated university president in Missouri behind only the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia.
According to the 2017 President’s/Chancellor’s Compensation Survey, published by the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Ambrose’s total compensation in fiscal year 2017 ranks sixth among presidents or chancellors in Missouri out of 14 public four-year institutions and the president of the University of Missouri System.
Taylor said the university will continue to increase pay for faculty according to the compensation model for tenure-track professors based on their individual performances and the requirements for such promotions. Such promotions and associated wage increases will also continue to be considered for members of the staff.
“We have done pay increases associated with increased responsibilities,” she said, “which is absolutely appropriate and prudent and a responsible response to the fiscal situation the university is in from a salary perspective.”
Both Best and Taylor said there has not been any across-the-board wage increase for faculty.
Ultimately, Neal said he just wants to sit down with representatives of the university and discuss a wage increase for UCM’s staff.
“We’re just trying to bring attention to the fact that something’s got to be done,” he said.
Taylor said the university would be open to such a conversation.
“If they’d like to request a meet-and-confer to resume, with the production of a request that we can actually discuss and negotiate, we would be happy to come back to the table,” she said.