Contract bargaining underway for UIS union

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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UIS United Faculty, the tenure and tenure-track professors union, is still negotiating its first contract with the university, but continues to work toward an agreement with the administration.

The union met with the university’s negotiating team twice in this month and once in August after both parties called for a federal mediator.

“We’re very eager to make some significant progress,” said Lynn Fisher, chapter president of UIS United Faculty.

The union wanted bargaining meetings to be more consistent, and both parties agreed that a federal mediator would help with setting more meeting times and moving the negotiations forward.

“We’re eager to get a resolution,” Derek Schnapp, director of UIS public relations said. “I know there’s many topics that are being discussed and we’re doing the proper channels.”

Fisher said that she could not go into details about each of the items the union is negotiating, but she noted that they are concentrating on three main topics.

The union is asking for the respect of faculty work with fair compensation and benefits.

“This is about a critical university goal of recruiting and retaining high quality faculty,” Fisher said. “If wages and benefits fall below norms than faculty seek better opportunities someplace else.”

Other areas the union is focusing in on is maintaining and strengthening the faculty personnel policy which represents the “procedural protections” for the core academic values of tenure and academic freedom.

“I know there are many topics that need to be discussed, but sometimes it just takes a little time,” said Schnapp.

The union also wants to strengthen the collective voice of the faculty by allowing it to participate in the governing of the school and advocating for policies that impact students on campus.

“It adds up to respect for the faculty’s work at the university,” said Fisher.

The union began bargaining with the school last year, when it first submitted a proposal to the university in the fall of 2015.

Schnapp said it is not uncommon for the first contract to take longer to put together and believes that both parties “want it done right and are willing to come together.”

Tenure and tenure-track faculty members voted in November 2014 to form a union on campus and officially became certified by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) in the beginning of 2015.

The union started working on contract proposals later that summer.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to propose a contract that very much reflects current practice in the way faculty work in the within the university,” said Fisher.

The university currently has contracts with eight other unions on campus.

Both parties plan to meet multiple times in the coming months, including over the winter break, in hopes of reaching a resolution.

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