Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Embattled Faculty Offer to Accept Zero Pay Increase for Zero Tuition Increase for Students

I'm pasting and forwarding the below as a heads-up to any of you who might be interested and/or might not have been aware.  The Central Michigan University Faculty Association (the union of CMU's regular faculty, as the president of which - I am proud and privileged to note - I served around 1995) is currently in negotiations with the CMU Administration for a new contract, to replace the one that expired at end of June this year.

The Administration (I will not call them CMU; by my lights, we - the faculty and students - are CMU) seem to feel that popular sentiment and the political winds are at their back.  The state's economy is struggling; a lot of people don't have jobs; students' families are suffering.  But financially speaking, CMU is in excellent shape, as even President George Ross and the Administration have been touting and as the editorial below reflects.  Nonetheless, the Administration is demanding that faculty accept 0 pay increase next year, as well as a major give-back on health care.  (They also want to award less money for promotion, as well as remove department chairs, librarians, and coaches from the FA bargaining unit [The idea is to bust the union].)  They have refused to compromise one whit on this, and brought in a mediator extremely early - a signal that they simply refused to negotiate any of their demands.

We have had conflict during the bargaining process before (every three years), which has often meant that negotiations continued into - and a settlement was reached in - the fall semester.  But for the first time in my almost 30 years at CMU, the Administration has refused to grant a contract extension during that extended bargaining.  While faculty are still receiving paychecks, this enables the Administration to squeeze much higher health-insurance payments from faculty.  We also know that, according to a new state law, salary increases coming to faculty who are to receive promotion in rank (earned by very hard work and significant achievement) at tomorrow's Board of Trustees meeting will not go into effect, nor will the pay increases they would have received between 1 August and whenever a new contract is signed be restored retroactively upon the reaching of a new contract agreement (which had always been the case before).   In effect, the Administration stands to take thousands of dollars directly from faculty pockets by resorting to this (by my lights, disgraceful) tactic.

If you read the Detroit Free Press, you may know that the FA has now challenged the Administration with an offer: We will agree to no pay increase for next year if the Administration agrees to no tuition increase for students.  We're committed to our students' welfare.  I'm not sure the Administration can make that claim anymore.

Again, in my almost 30 years here at CMU, this is undoubtedly the nadir of administration-faculty relations.  We have been trying to make our case to alumni and the broader community, both in Mount Pleasant and across the state.  If you'd like to keep abreast of developments and perhaps even offer some support, I invite you to check out the recently established Facebook page, Friends of CMU Faculty.

And letters to President George Ross, Provost Gary Shapiro, and the CMU Board of Trustees are always welcome.

EDITORIAL: Focus on our education

Posted By Editorial Board On July 12, 2011 @ 6:00 pm In Editorial | No Comments

One would need to be extraordinarily out of touch to not recognize the lackluster-at-best state of the economy in Michigan and also in this country.

To borrow a phrase from the governor, it’s time for “shared sacrifice,” something many folks are doing across the state.

But the financial state of Michigan is not the same as the financial state of CMU — to the tune of $228 million in unrestricted net assets and solid, spectacular credit ratings by top ranking credit agencies.

There are many facts in this matter to consider, and they simply cannot all be addressed. But considering the financial stability of this university, such a robust and solid-footed fiscal state gives no excuse to not give faculty members a solid cost of living increase and to ensure their health benefits, are, at the very least, maintained.

Although other staff groups have taken freezes, the tone of negotiations with other employee groups should not set the tone for faculty negotiations.

The financial stability of this university is a major reason this group should not see anything less than a cost-of-living pay increase; another is respect.

Without faculty, there would be no university. It is as simple as that. Without faculty members, every single operation at this university is null — they are the ones who teach the students, who conduct research with these students, who interact with, mentor and guide the students every day.

No other group save the Union of Teaching Faculty can say it is so integral to this university’s core purpose.

The faculty is essential personnel. They are not just cogs in the machine — alumni rarely congratulate the university on a spectacular job done by a senior officer, mostly because administrators work behind the scenes to ensure that primary experience is maintained.

While this board supports modest raises for the Faculty Association, it should be noted these raises should not come at additional expense of the students.

The faculty should not expect substantial pay increases. The goal is to keep them healthy and competitive, but also to keep priorities straight.

The FA president announced Tuesday the group would accept a pay freeze if tuition was frozen as well; this represents the FA as an agreeable and practical group. FA President Laura Frey said part of the reasoning it is willing to negotiate such a deal is to lessen the burden on students, showing its priorities seem to be in the right place.

Administrators discussed in April how integral it is to this university to maintain competitive rates for recruitment purposes, but it seems they are not practicing what they preach while demanding pay freezes of their employees. In order to attract and maintain a competitive faculty, it is necessary to give it competitive wages.

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