Teachers clash over pay rise at Alaska University

The University of Alaska Systems Board of Regents has approved salary increases for faculties কিন্তু but the faculty union says the move comes prematurely, amid ongoing negotiations and federal mediation.

System leaders argue that approving the increase last week was a now-or-never-necessary step. They say negotiations on a joint bargaining agreement have hit a stalemate – even as they engage in a federal mediation process to resolve outstanding issues – and Alaska lawmakers rushed to submit a pay rise request before the end of their legislature session on Wednesday.

Despite last-minute pressure from the system, the Alaska legislature did not act on the request in a timely manner, which means that members of the University of Alaska Faculty Union, United Academics will not see an immediate pay rise. The request is likely to be put on hold until the legislators reconvene in January.

Among other things, United Academics argues that the administration erroneously declared a stalemate in negotiating the agreement.

Breakdown

Although university administrators say the talks are over, union representatives point out that the process has been going on since late last summer. They accused the university officials of dragging out the talks sitting on the union’s initial proposal.

University negotiators made a “best and final proposal” to union negotiators in late April. Unable to reach an agreement on a handful of issues related to compensation and tenure and academic independence, the union and the university agreed to mediate mutually.

The session was scheduled for May. But on May 16, two days before a session with the Federal Arbitration and Conciliation Service, the university declared a standstill.

“In a unanimous vote this morning, the Board of Regents took an unprecedented step to approve me to implement the administration’s ‘best and final proposal’ to United Academics (UNAC). The move follows stalled negotiations and a failed attempt to reach an agreement through federal mediation, resulting in a stalemate, “UAE President Pat Pitney wrote in a message to the university community.” Before the end of the session, there was no way for the legislature to get the financial terms. According to the law, the university cannot increase the salary and benefits of any union member without the legislature including the financial terms of the joint bargaining agreement in the budget. “

But even after announcing the stalemate, the UA shows up two days later at the federal mediation session.

“We see the unilateral declaration of stagnation as inappropriate,” said Tony Richard, chief negotiator at United Academics and professor of mathematics at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. “Because a stalemate can only be declared when the mediation does not reach an agreement and the mediation is not over. They mutually agreed to meet with us for another session, which did not happen. “

A university spokesman said in an email that the administration had declared a stalemate as talks failed.

“The mediation will only continue if the parties believe it is effective. The mediation confirmed that there was a huge gap between UNAC’s proposal and the university’s best and final proposal, “a university spokesman wrote. Inside higher ed. “More importantly, neither side is making significant concessions on significant issues. That’s the legal definition of stagnation. “

Ricard refrained from accusing the university of running out of time to negotiate, but said the union had made some proposals that took months for the UA to respond. In the end, he believes, the crisis of time can be avoided and the negotiations drag on.

University officials argue that the union is responsible for the slow negotiations. The spokesman said in an email that UNAC had “proposed hundreds of changes to a joint bargaining agreement (CBA) that has worked well for both parties over 20 years. Reviewing and responding to these proposals slowed negotiations.”

Considering the stalemate, the UA called April 25 the best and final proposal. Spokesman said.

The salary increases approved by the Board of Regents include 3 percent for 2023, 2.5 percent for 2024 and 2 percent for 2025. In contrast, university documents show that the union called for a 5 percent and 3 percent pay increase for 2023. Increases for 2024 and 2025, as well as additional living costs and base salaries.

Documents show that the estimated total cost of the salary increase would be $ 15 million under the university’s proposal, compared to $ 79 million under the union’s plan.

University administrators noted that the offer “includes many of the conditions that UNAC wanted for its members. It includes the first significant increase as well as the first pension base increase in many years.

University officials also said the union’s proposed pay rise would not be sustainable.

But Ricard argues that the increase is long overdue. Union members have received only one salary increase in the last six years এবং and that was only 1 percent, he said. The union’s proposal will help keep Alaska competitive and protect faculty members in the face of rising inflation, he noted.

Ricard said he hopes to continue negotiations with the university. He described the current move as not only inadequate but also inadequate and even a violation of Alaska labor laws, noting that the union had approached legal advice.

“What the Board of Regents did wrong is that they voted for the UAE president to approve the implementation of the last best offer. In other words, they let him go ahead and say ‘this is a deal’. And they are, in our view, doing this in violation of Alaska labor law, because it only happens when the arbitration agreement fails, “Ricard said.” And it didn’t happen. The arbitration is going on. It’s not over. “

What next?

Legal experts advise that it is not uncommon for a joint bargaining agreement to end in mediation. Once the process begins, the mediators work to break the stalemate with both parties.

“When it comes to the Federal Arbitration and Conciliation Service, their role is to work with the parties and see if they can help broker an agreement between the two parties,” said Michael Bertonsini, a lawyer at Jackson Lewis, a law firm that specializes in labor relations. Works. “They often get involved in games with teams fairly late when it’s a shame. And often through shuttle diplomacy, they sometimes make their own proposals and try to break that logjam by floating to the parties to see if they can move the process forward. “

Bartonsini noted that it was unusual for a university to declare a stalemate while still engaged in active contract negotiations, but that did not mean that those negotiations were ruined.

“It is unusual to declare a stalemate in the sense that the party has no place to move, while participating in mediation means being willing to change its position to reach an agreement,” he said. “However, the university may be pointing out that there is no place for wages in the first year of the contract, but it is willing to move on to other terms of the proposal to reach a multi-year contract,” he said. “

William A. Herbert, a distinguished lecturer and director of the Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education at Hunter College, City University, New York, and the Center for the Executive, described the move to declare a stalemate as still contradictory.

“A stalemate means that one party believes in good faith that future negotiations will not result in a temporary agreement on all outstanding issues,” Herbert said. “Agreeing to continue negotiations through mediation to reach a temporary agreement opposes a claim that there is a stalemate in negotiations.”

For the record, he just wants to get back to the negotiating table.

“We hope to work with the University of Alaska mediator next week to reach an agreement on membership. If they try to move forward with the implementation of their last best offer, we are considering and planning for other situations and other options, they are very unpleasant for both parties, “Ricard said.” When we analyze other situations, and how we respond. Our goal is to continue working with the University of Alaska through a mediation process to reach a new agreement. “

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