Bargaining for better wages, the Faculty Association presented their salary counter-offer to administration a day after their protest during the Staff and Faculty Appreciation event.
Professor of English Language and Literature and Faculty Association member Charles Berger said the counter-offer to the administration bargaining team is an equitable amount for the faculty considering the $27 million cash reserves SIUE has.
“I’m very confident in saying that our salary request, our salary proposal, is very fair and it’s a very reasonable offer,” Berger said. “We are utterly convinced that the university has the funds to meet that request. It’s just a question of whether they are willing to make the decision to invest in faculty.”
After 25 months of bargaining, Berger said the administration's bargaining team has taken too long to present a counter-offer that is fair.
“They have just taken an unconscionably long time to come back with a realistic, fair response to our salary offer, which is not extreme in any way,” Berger said. “What always happens in bargaining is, unfortunately, money issues are the last thing to bargain and everybody kind of plays chicken at the end to see how long they can hold out.”
Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker commented in a previous article from The Alestle. He said the Faculty Association had a no-talk agreement.
“We will honor the agreement that we won’t talk about negotiations in the press,” Walker said.
According to Professor of Music and the Faculty Association President Kim Archer, however, those limitations are not currently in place.
“The Faculty Association did not agree to anything prohibiting us from discussing negotiations with the press,” Archer said. “Sometimes unions and administration do agree to certain rules, like neither side will talk to the press during negotiations. The Faculty Association did not agree to any of these kinds of rules because they really only favor administration.”
Archer said Walker is not a part of the bargaining process and is not involved with the Faculty Association.
“Rich [Walker] is empowered to be the point person for a lot of the unions on campus. I mean, there are 20 different unions and he deals with most of them, but he does not deal with the Faculty Association and he does not deal with the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association,” Archer said. “I’m sure Rich [Walker] assumed we have ground rules, because I’m sure the university favors those ground rules, but he wasn’t in a position to speak to what our situation is because he’s never dealt with us.”
In March 2017, Faculty Association's original contract with the university established a no-talk agreement, prohibiting the union and the administration from speaking with the press.
“[The Faculty Association] did agree to ground rules for that [original contract], which we said that we would not talk to the press or media until after we had evoked mediation,” Archer said.
According to Archer, a second interim contract was put in place in December 2017, meaning the ground rules were no longer in effect. This now allowed the Faculty Association to release comments to the press.
“We ratified [the original contract] in the normal way, but it’s the skeleton around the full contract in which we are working on now, is being built. When we resumed at the table March 2018, the administration wanted to renegotiate the ground rules,” Archer said. “We said we weren’t going to use ground rules after we ratified that interim contract and the administration agreed with us, so we did not use ground rules from that point forward.”
Archer said the Faculty Association called for a mediator to have a third party to help with negotiations.
“What happens in 99 percent of all union contracts that are ever bargained is that you get to the end and the things that are left are the really sticky parts that are hard to agree on, and so both sides benefit from having a third party come in and help them work out some kind of middle ground on what they are negotiating,” Archer said.
Berger said negotiations aren't easy for either side, but the bargaining is moving forward at this point.
“I think it is important for everyone to know that negotiations are very serious. They’re tough and it’s part of what happens during bargaining,” Berger said. “As we get near the end of signing an agreement, there are hard decisions that both sides have to make, and having to achieve a successful conclusion, each side has to give up something. However, there has been movement and we are certainly not at an impasse.”