Visiting Academic Professionals, UI settle contract

URBANA — The Visiting Academic Professionals union has reached a tentative labor agreement with the University of Illinois after working a full year without a contract, the union says.

The union had formally rejected what the university called its final offer in June, and the UI subsequently terminated its collective-bargaining agreement with the union, saying no raises were expected for those workers this academic year.

But the two sides met with a federal mediator Thursday afternoon and agreed to a four-year contract, said the union's chief negotiator, Alan Bilansky.

The agreement provides a 3 percent raise for 2011-12, retroactive to Aug. 16, 2011, and a 2.5 percent raise for the 2012-13 academic year, which started Thursday, Bilansky said. Those are the same amounts granted to other academic professionals under the general campus salary program, he said.

No guaranteed raises are provided for the remaining two years of the contract, but it allows managers to grant merit pay with the campus salary program as a guideline, Bilansky said. The union had hoped to get both guaranteed raises and the merit pay option, he said.

The university had earlier offered a 3 percent raise for the academic year that just concluded but no guaranteed raises or merit pay option the remaining three years, Bilansky said.

The two sides have been bargaining since July 2011. The union, which formed in 2005, represents 300 employees on campus who work on year-to-year appointments, including researchers, instructors, counselors, information technology specialists and more.

As part of the new deal, the union also agreed to withdraw an unfair labor practice complaint against the university over retroactive pay, Bilansky said.

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