- Advertisement -

The Western Illinois University administration and the union representing teachers and staff are heading to mediation after almost a year of contract negotiations.  The university’s contract with the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) expired over the summer so both sides continue to operate under the old agreement.

The two groups began meeting in October 2016, hoping to craft a new five year contract. The administration requested a mediator in September 2017 after saying negotiations were at a standstill. The union did not join in the request for mediation, although its members said they are looking forward to the process and hope to find a resolution.

This is the first time either side can remember having to go through mediation.

- advertisement -

Russ Morgan, Western’s Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, leads the university’s negotiating team. He said, “When contract talks started the administration was working from the perspective that the state had not had a budget in almost two years. We were in a bad situation. We didn’t have a budget and we didn’t know about enrollment,” Morgan said.

State lawmakers did finally pass a budget deal in July without the support of Governor Bruce Rauner, ending a two-year budget impasse. Higher education will receive about 90% of its 2015 funding level. State lawmakers also signed off on providing MAP grants for low-income students this year. Still, fall student enrollment at Western was down again, falling 9% from last year.

Morgan said that the administration wants a sustainable contract with UPI. He said the university expects another budget shortfall this year. “We are in a situation now where we can no longer make some of the large promises moving forward in terms of salary increases.”

He said that some of the past administrations agreed to two, three, and even four percent salary increases each year over the life of the contract. “We’ve learned with the state budget situation and the uncertainty that exists that, that is just not a feasible thing anymore,” Morgan said. Instead, he said the administration is looking for more flexibility and it’s asking for cuts as part of what he called “concession bargaining.”

In recent years, UPI members have made some concessions. Last year, union members voted to defer 3% of their pay and 1% negotiated salary increases for two years in order to help the university get by during the budget impasse.

Dana Lindemann, WIU Associate Professor of Psychology, is the lead negotiator for local chapter of UPI. She said the give-back program has resulted in a significant loss for union employees.

“Since 2010, the average UPI faculty member has given up $21,000 in salary in what was negotiated,” Lindemann said. “So for our members, even the idea of a 3% [salary] cut in addition to the givebacks that have been made since 2010 is a really hard pill to swallow.”

Source: tspr.org

Next articleElectoral reforms in UNICOF advocated
ADR Daily is a specialized news portal with a focus on providing authentic news, information and research analysis on Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR), Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations Management (IRM) in Ghana and beyond. This platform serves as an information resource base for the progress of the ADR, HRM and IRM industries, and seeks to promote professionalism in ADR practice by supporting a network of ADR professionals within and across nations and continents. ADR Daily keenly encourages the mass adoption of ADR mechanisms, particularly negotiation, mediation and arbitration for the resolution of disputes in all spheres, through the publication of industry news and information, as well as by deploying innovative awareness creation engagements.