UI non-tenure-track faculty vote unanimously to call off strike

UI non-tenure-track faculty vote unanimously to call off strike

URBANA — One day after non-tenure-track faculty union members reached a tentative contract agreement contract with the University of Illinois, they voted unanimously Sunday to call off their 2-day-old strike.

The five-year agreement was finalized late Saturday night and announced in a joint statement by the UI and Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local 6546. Negotiators had met with a federal mediator all day Friday and Saturday.

Union President Shawn Gilmore said a ratification vote has been scheduled for Thursday. Classes will resume on their normal schedule today, officials said.  

The union, which had staged a two-day strike earlier in April, walked off the job for a second time Thursday morning and planned to strike through the last day of classes on Wednesday.

Gilmore said the negotiating team is “elated” with the agreement, which runs through 2019. He said it includes “very good protections” for appointments/reappointments and a multiyear contract system for faculty members who have been at the UI for five years or more, which had been the primary sticking points in the negotiations. 

The contract covers most high-priority issues for the union, which had asked for greater job security, academic freedom protections and participation in faculty governance, the union said. It also includes compensation steps that addresses lower-paid faculty in particular, he said.

“We are happy to say that after more than a year and a half of negotiations we reached the goals that were most important to our members,” union spokeswoman Dorothee Schneider told The News-Gazette.

The union was certified in July 2014 and began negotiating its first contract with the UI in October 2014. The union represents about 500 teaching, research and clinical faculty members who are not on the tenure track. About 400 hold teaching positions and teach about 40 percent of the undergraduate classes on campus. Most have year-to-year appointments with nine-month contracts.

The union was seeking multiyear contracts for members who have been working five years or longer, support for professional development and regularized appointment and reappointment procedures.

Administrators said they supported multiyear contracts but wanted them to be based on merit and performance and under the control of departments, which can’t automatically lock in to long-term contracts because of state budget uncertainties. The UI has been operating without state funding since July 1.

Gilmore said the two sides resolved those differences after some “fairly open-ended conversations” about the underlying issues, and he thinks what’s in the contract is a good balancing act. Multiyear contracts would be based on evaluations 

Nothing in the contract precludes other options for multiyear contracts and promotions outlined in the provost’s initiatives on “specialized faculty,” he said.

“We would not achieve our mission as a leading public research university without the excellent work and dedication of our specialized faculty,” interim Provost Ed Feser said in a separate statement. “We are a stronger institution when they are integral partners in governance, when their teaching is protected by academic freedom, and when they have appropriate predictability and stability in their appointments. 

“This tentative agreement addresses those priorities without supplanting the roles of the departments and colleges as important stewards of hiring and promotion for our academic programs. It also preserves the flexibility of units to offer multiyear contracts according to their own needs and financial capacity.” 

A side letter to the contract also directs departments to develop bylaws for shared governance and clear procedures for evaluations for nontenure-track faculty, so it’s clear what’s going into decisions on promotions and multiyear contracts, he said.

“We greatly value the contributions of our specialized faculty, and we appreciate that negotiators for the union remained at the bargaining table with us to find common ground that achieves our shared goals,” interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said in a statement.

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