University administration have requested a mediator in their contract negotiations with University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) Local 4100 as they approach the one-year mark since negotiations began.
The university announced to the university community via a Sept. 19 news release that it was seeking a mediator to assist in negotiations which began in October 2016 for a 60-month (five-year) contract. UPI represents 612 WIU faculty and professional staff.
According to WIU Contract Administrator and Associate Provost Russ Morgan, the university is seeking mediation because it felt the parties had not “made satisfactory progress or an agreement on substantive provisions” in the contract after 10 months of discussion.
Members of the administration had informed UPI during negotiations earlier this month that they were considering mediation. About a week later, the administration’s lead negotiator contacted UPI’s lead negotiator to ask if UPI wanted to file a joint request for mediation. UPI declined.
“We talked about this among the (UPI negotiation) team, and we decided that first of all, we did not seek mediation; they made the request,” UPI Local 4100 Chapter President Bill Thompson said.
“We still feel that there are things that we can talk about. In other words, we don’t think that we’re at a point where mediation is — from our point of view — necessary. So therefore we said we want the historical record to reflect the reality at the table, which is that (the administration) requested mediation, so go ahead: request it. And we’re happy to meet you at mediation and hopefully we will find a mutually agreeable conclusion to our conversations. There were still things to be discussed. For example, grievance language, layoff language. So we felt that we were not done.”
While both parties have agreed on some of the non-economic terms in the proposals, the economic-related terms are still points of disagreement. At dispute are proposed salary cuts and proposed furloughs, elevated course loads, travel reimbursement changes, structural changes to cost-of-living increases called minima, and changes to promotional criteria and processes, among others.
Some of the main terms the administration has proposed include:
‒ A 3 percent cut to base salary that would apply for the duration of the new contract, beginning in FY19. UPI members have been operating with a 3 percent salary reduction since July 1, 2016 on a temporary basis that ends with the fiscal year in June, according to a memorandum of agreement.
‒ Beginning FY18, employees could be required to take up to eight furlough days per year.
‒ Beginning FY19, the elimination of regular cost-of-living increases, called minima, which would be replaced with a promotional system that provides $1,000/month for Unit A employees and $400/
month for Unit B employees after six and 11 years.
‒ Beginning FY19, eliminate compensation for travel for distance delivered courses.
Morgan provided a rationale for the university’s proposal. Citing the two-year state budget impasse, he said that the appropriation received since the budget passed is only 90 percent of the FY15 state appropriation.
He also pointed out that not receiving appropriations for two years required WIU to use its reserve funds, which he described as “depleted.”
“It is also likely payments from the state will be delayed in light of the backlog of pending bills,” he said. “It is going to take a great deal of effort and time to overcome the negative effects of the budget impasse.”
Jim LaPrad, media contact for UPI, weighed in on the administration’s proposal in an Sept. 21 press release about the mediation request.