Date Effective: MAY 2001

  Problem Statement

The Montana University System is the third largest employer in the State of Montana. With approximately 5,560 faculty, staff, and administrators the University System ranks behind the Montana State Government and the United States Government with 18,400 and 22,000 employees, respectively [1].

University System Structure and Funding
A six-member Board of Regents, appointed by the Governor of the State of Montana, governs the Montana University System. The Board of Regents hires a Commissioner of Higher Education to whom two university presidents report. The Board of Regents possesses constitutional autonomy from the State of Montana Legislature.

The State Legislature convenes on a biennial schedule. Though constitutionally autonomous, the Montana University System remains dependent upon the legislature to allocate system funding. In addition to state-allocated funding, the University System receives revenue from external grants and contracts and student tuition and fees. Funds allocated by the State Legislature have declined significantly during recent years. In 2000 the University System received $6 million less from the state than they received in 1992. When adjusted for inflation, the decrease represents a 23 percent reduction.

As state dollars decrease, the University System is increasingly dependent upon student tuition and fees to maintain the system. In fiscal year 2000 the state decreased system funding to 49.7 percent of total revenue; student tuition and fees made up the remaining revenue.

The State Legislature's decisions are based, in part, on Montana's continued erosion of the tax base due to the state's dependence upon the stagnant wood products and mining industries. The legislature adamantly opposes increasing taxes and imposing new taxes.

The most recent legislative session adjourned in April 2001. The lack of responsiveness to requests to increase higher education funding resulted in the necessity to increase student tuition from 9 percent to 16 percent, based on budgetary needs of individual campuses. Most apparent in the recent legislative session was the demand for increased accountability on the part of the University System. Increased emphasis on accountability and assessment of outcomes is a national trend within both academic and non-academic segments of higher education.

Until January 1994, the Montana University System was comprised of six distinct universities and five colleges of technology. The Montana University System was then restructured, resulting in two universities, each with three affiliated campuses, and two separate colleges of technology. Smaller, affiliated campuses became less autonomous and now rely more heavily on the two universities for governance oversight, including the area of employee relations.

Concurrent with funding limitations, the Montana University System is experiencing a growth in student enrollments - an overall increase of approximately 522 students since 1992. Increasing student enrollment correlates directly to increased workload for staff.

Bargaining Unit Representation
The State of Montana ranks 19th among all states in percentage of the work force represented by unions; 17.2 percent of employed workers are represented by bargaining units in Montana [2]. Fourteen bargaining units represent non-academic staff and seven bargaining units represent faculty of the Montana University System. There are currently 2,657 non-academic staff members, 2,077 faculty, and 826 administrators employed by the University System. Bargaining units represent approximately 65 percent of the work force.

The Montana Public Employees Association (MPEA) represents approximately 1,700 non-academic staff-the largest bargaining unit in the University System. MPEA membership has increased by 24 percent since 1989. Employees are represented by MPEA at six of eight University System campuses.

Other unions representing staff include: Teamsters, Local 2; AFSCME, Local 2235; AFSCME, Local 441; Montana District Council of Laborers; College of Technology Operating Engineers; Montana Nurses Association; Maintenance Painters; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 440; Pacific NW District Council of Carpenters; United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; IAM &; AW; Print, Publishing &; Media Sector of Communication Workers of America and Graphic Communication International.

Teamsters, Local No. 2 represents 128 staff members. AFSCME, Local No. 2235 membership totals 61; and Laborers represent 133 staff.

Units of the University System encompass a large geographic area, with some units located at relatively remote distances from others. The greatest distance between two units is approximately 350 miles. The remoteness of some campuses, combined with diverse cultures, contributes to difficulty in maintaining ongoing, positive labor-management relations.

The Director of Labor Relations residing in the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education conducts staff collective bargaining centrally. Although representatives from each campus participate in collective bargaining, issues are addressed on the basis of system-wide importance and impact.

Further complications occur during the collective bargaining process due to varied composition of bargaining unit memberships across campus boundaries. For example, the Laborers union includes only maintenance workers and heavy equipment operators at the Missoula campus, while only custodians are included in the same bargaining unit at the Bozeman campus. However, not all custodians at the Bozeman campus are included in the Laborers bargaining unit; some are represented by Teamsters and others by MPEA. Custodians at the Missoula and Butte campuses are included in the MPEA bargaining unit. Members' interests may be very different among each group of employees. These examples illustrate the unique challenges of maintaining positive and effective labor relations among campuses and bargaining units.

Thus, campus-specific concerns and labor relation issues may not be adequately discussed and resolved during labor negotiations. In some instances, smaller campuses have no designated individual responsible for labor and employee relations, creating inconsistencies and confusion. There is no mechanism to address ongoing labor-management relations in a fair and consistent manner across all campus boundaries.

Campus Demographics and Work Force
Campuses are diverse in size and missions, and experience varying labor markets. The following information illustrates some of the differences among campuses:

Campus Demographics
Campus: Student Enrollment Staff Faculty Administrators
The University of Montana
Missoula 11,412 1,083 913 304
Montana Tech 1,939 112 209 73
Western 1,028 69 86 31
Helena COT 714 20 47 7
Total UM Campuses: 15,093 1,284 1,255 415
Montana State University
Bozeman 10,400 1,263 1,131 427
Billings 3,845 219 221 72
Northern 1,395 89 98 67
Great Falls COT 788 45 63 12
Total MSU Campuses: 16,428 1,616 1,513 578
TOTAL SYSTEM-WIDE: 31,521 2,900 2,768 993

State Economic Information
Approximately 56 percent of staff members have fewer than 5 years of service with the University System. The average salary is $24,300. Varied labor markets are apparent in 2000 annual average unemployment rates detailed by the county in which each campus resides [3].

The University of Montana - Missoula Missoula County 3.3%
MSU--Billings Yellowstone County 3.8%
Great Falls College of Technology Cascade County 5.0%
MSU - Bozeman Gallatin County 2.7%
Helena College of Technology Lewis and Clark 4.3%
Montana Tech of the U of M Silver Bow 6.2%
Western Montana College of U of M Beaverhead 4.0%
MSU-Northern Hill 5.0%

The State of Montana ranks 30th nationally in per capita income [4], and has a total available work force of approximately 480,000 [5]. These factors contribute to the overall challenge of the Montana University System to attract and retain the most qualified staff members.


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