By CARL GREEN
Carbondale, IL – Just days after the new faculty union at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was approved, the faculty union at SIU-Carbondale approved a new contract following two years of negotiating.
Illinois Education Association-NEA represents both faculty groups and is expected to begin contract negotiations at Edwardsville in the coming year.
For now, the union is presenting an SIUC contract to replace a contract that expired on June 30, 2014. The new contract is to be in effect through June 30, 2018, and is scheduled for a vote by the SIUC Board of Trustees on Feb. 9. Faculty approved it Dec. 12.
The contract specifies no salary increases for the approximately 500 tenured and tenure-track professors that it covers, although the contract can be re-opened when and if the state government approves a budget for public universities.
Dave Johnson, an associate professor of classics who is president of the Faculty Association, called the contract talks “collegial, professional and productive.”
“I am happy to report that the members of the Faculty Association (FA) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new agreement with the administration,” Johnson told members.
“Just about half of FA members voted – not a bad turnout at this time of year, especially given that the agreement did not generate much controversy.”
The text of the agreement is available online at the union’s website, siucfa.wordpress.com.
Johnson said the negotiations took into account concerns of both the union and the university administration.
“As important as the progress we’ve made is the way we’ve made it,” he said. “This time around, both bargaining teams, Faculty Association and administration alike, made a real effort to find common ground. This agreement is good news for SIUC.”
- Revised procedures for development, review and approval of program changes.
- Clarification in procedures for grievances and for faculty promotion and tenure.
- Revisions in procedures for faculty workload assignments.
- Clarification of faculty rights and responsibilities regarding the syllabi for university courses.
- Definition of conditions under which furloughs can be implemented.
- “Fair share” payments by faculty if association membership tops 50 percent. After the 50 percent level is reached, eligible faculty will have to either join the union or make a fair share payment under the Educational Labor Relations Act.
The university’s other IEA locals had previously won the fair share provision, Currently, the Faculty Association is under 50 percent membership, so it will not take effect immediately.
Johnson said members were understanding about the salary provisions including the re-opener clause.
“Most people recognize that the university is in a real financial pinch, and didn’t expect much,” he told the Labor Tribune.
If the state does fund the universities again, the ensuing talks would count as full negotiations with the right to strike.
“We would have some leverage at the table – if the state would come through with a decent budget,” he said.
Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell echoed Johnson’s approval of how the negotiations were conducted.
“I’m proud that the bargaining teams worked hard together to build an agreement in the context of a difficult environment,” he said. “I appreciate the positive, collaborative approach taken by the teams and look forward to continuing to work with the Faculty Association to address issues of mutual concern.”
IN IT TOGETHER
Johnson told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper that there was little point in blaming the university for the state’s inability to fund higher education.
“I think we all know we’re in this together, when it’s all said and done,” he said. “The mood on campus overall is that people are not happy with the state budget impasse, and people are worried about the future, but the bargaining table was not the place to raise those concerns. It’s not the fault of the administrators.”
Negotiations were continuing between the university and IEA/NEA locals representing the graduate assistants, civil service employees and non-tenure track faculty.
The new faculty union at SIUE was certified on Dec. 8 by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, including about 400 tenured and tenure-track faculty. It will be called the SIUE Faculty Association-IEA/NEA.
Organizers said their goal was to have a voice within the university and the state government as decisions are made about issues such as pensions and health care. But state law also requires the union and administration to begin contract talks within 60 days of certification.
The union was approved after more than half of the eligible faculty signed cards stating their support. The Faculty Association has been a non-bargaining group at the university since 2000.