Where we stand: November 7, 2011

Thanks to the resolve and hard work of faculty at the picket line and in the bargaining room, and with the help of numerous supporters from our sister locals and hundreds of SIUC undergraduates, we have made considerable progress over the last few days, but major differences remain between our proposals and those of the Board of Trustees team. The administration left us no alternative to a strike in order to achieve the progress we have made so far.  With continued resolve and support we shall secure enough progress to reach a tentative agreement and end this strike.

At 5:17 pm on Monday, November 7, the BOT team presented a set of proposals that responded to FA proposals that had been sent to the BOT team at 11:30 am.  After a brief conversation, the board team informed the FA bargaining team that they were leaving for the evening and would resume negotiations at 9:30 am on Tuesday. The FA team will resume bargaining with the Board team then.  The FA team had been prepared to continue bargaining in an effort to reach an agreement Monday night.  But by breaking off negotiations on Monday night, the board team ensured that a strike would continue for at least one more day.  In subsequent comments in an email and to the press the Chancellor indicated that her team was ready to meet again this evening, but that statement contradicts what the Board bargaining team said in direct communication with the FA bargaining team.

At 8:00 pm the FA’s Departmental Representatives Council received a detailed report from the bargaining team on the course of negotiations and the current positions of the board and FA.  At the end of that meeting the DRC voted unanimously to support their bargaining team, calling for them to return to the bargaining table and seek an equitable resolution of the remaining issues that divide the two sides.  The major items where the BOT and FA remain divided are the following:

Furloughs. The BOT proposal lacks clear standards and a clear process for determining when the financial situation justifies furloughs, and provides for no accountability that would allow a grievance or other appeal in the event the FA believes those standards have not been met.  The BOT proposal offers toothless midterm bargaining which could not reverse an unjustified imposition of furloughs. The BOT proposal would thus undermine our collective bargaining rights by failing to guarantee that salaries are determined by mutual agreement and cannot be arbitrarily and unilaterally reduced by the Board.  Because the BOT proposal lacks transparency and accountability, it provides no safeguard against the risk that savings from furloughs would be used not to safeguard our academic mission, but instead to fund other administrative priorities.  Finally, the Board’s proposal would limit our recourse to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to settle our dispute over the legality of the BOT’s imposition of four furlough days in FY 2011. The FA has proposed multiple options for meeting our interest in transparency and accountability on this issue.

Back to work agreement. The Board’s punitive back to work proposal is an insult to the faculty exercising their legal right to strike under Illinois law. Particularly insulting are the Board’s broad implications that faculty have been engaging in threats and misconduct during the course of the strike.  Inflammatory language will only inflame tensions on campus. The FA believes that an important goal for a back to work agreement is to build a better relationship between the faculty and the administration.

Fair share.  The administration continues to refuse to offer us fair share provisions similar to those offered to other IEA locals.

Areas of agreement. The FA team has worked creatively to secure our basic interest in transparency and accountability on Reduction in Force (layoffs) by contractualizing a definition of financial exigency and gaining the power to strike in the event we wish to challenge a BOT declaration of financial exigency, though we would have preferred the less disruptive alternatives of a binding outside panel or binding arbitration.  On overload pay, we secured full pay for all face to face overload courses, but would allow the BOT to offer 0.5-1.0 month’s for distance learning courses, in order to meet their interest in ensuring that such courses are profitable.  This last provision is explicitly limited to the current contract, and a cost study analysis done by the provost’s office will help determine whether the university can afford full pay for DL courses moving forward.  We have also reached an agreement to put off final decisions on sexual harassment and conflict of interest procedures, but with a schedule to resolve these matters.

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