Contract talks between the University of Alaska and its faculty union have stalled, and the two sides agreed to mediation on Tuesday, according to Tony Rickard, chief negotiator for United Academics, which represents all faculty at full time in the university system.
It comes after the University of Alaska made its latest best offer on Monday, offering three-year annual increases of 3%, 2.5% and 2%, bolstering an earlier offer of 2% each year from the three-year deal.
The teachers’ union has had a 1% raise over the past five years and no increments, which are annual longevity pay increases enjoyed by other public sector employee unions. United Academics executives say faculty purchasing power has eroded. The faculty asked for a minimum of 3% per year — more in line with inflation with a maximum of 7% — plus an annual $1,000 base salary increase for all members, according to documents on the website. of the union.
In March, union president Abel Bult-Ito wrote to members that university management was unaware of a sharp decline in professors’ purchasing power “of more than 10% through the end of 2021 with another 7% forecast for 2022 due to annual inflation”.
“The AU management team’s proposal does not address the accumulated decline in purchasing power over the past five years, let alone that anticipated over the life of the next contract,” Bult-wrote Ito. “These changes proposed by UA leadership include unlimited, unilateral furloughs for any faculty member, anywhere, anytime, and for any actual or “possible” budget shortfall (BOR Regulation 04.07.115) . Even a minor furlough would completely erase the 2% raises offered by the AU leadership team.
In a letter Monday to the University of Alaska community, UA President Pat Pitney wrote that not tentatively consenting to the university’s latest best offer means the body faculty will waive upcoming salary increases, which require legislative approval and time is running out. The legislative session is due to end in about three weeks.
“Money supply is more than projected in our initial fiscal planning, given changing economic conditions,” Pitney wrote. “At the same time, I think it is modest enough to be accepted by the Board of Regents and accepted and funded by the Legislative Assembly if received in time…Although I would have liked it to be more, of larger increases risk a funding failure, a veto, and more disruption and contraction of essential programs, services, and positions.The university’s offer also includes an almost 25% increase in base salary on which pension contributions are paid – the first such increase in decades.
Negotiations began in August and the teachers have been working under an expired contract since January 1.
In addition to salary increases that follow inflation, professors have demanded “equity adjustments”. This is explained in union documents as aimed at rectifying “problems that could become much more costly to the university if members seek legal remedies for wage disparities that could be based on protected statuses and help make University of Alaska a best employer for its faculty.”
The university’s offer includes “no clawback of benefits,” according to a March communication from Pitney, which said the union’s initial proposal amounted to a 39% wage increase. Pitney said that had been reduced to 34% last month. She wrote that “an increase in state funding of this magnitude is not possible.”
The university president also said the faculty was asking for too many non-monetary changes to the wording of the contract that has been running for 25 years “without any major disputes.”
One of the changes the faculty is seeking is to add grounding acknowledgment and a commitment to “end systemic and institutional racism” to the language of the contract.
The union also calls for the “seven principles of just cause” to be applied when discipline is needed. These are explained on the University of California, Berkeley website as guidelines for the discipline. They include reviewing a department’s disciplinary record as well as the campus record to ensure that discipline is applied consistently and to show that an employee knew the allegedly violated rule was in place.
The union also requires administrators to undergo “training on progressive discipline procedures”, which the university has rejected.
Workload is another area where both sides disagree. The university rejected language in the contract indicating that professors in leadership positions could have their abilities affected in teaching, scholarship and public service. The university also rejected contract language that limited when professors could be assigned new assignments.
Contract mediation will be conducted through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, according to Rickard.