* 3:48 pm - Four unions at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale have have announced they will file an intent to strike notice…
The unions that filed are the Faculty Association, Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, the Association of Civil Service Employees and Graduate Assistants United. The notice does not mean the unions are going on strike. Rather it is a procedure that must be completed for the Labor Act before any action can be taken. […]
Natasha Zaretsky, history professor and union member, said in an opening statement that the intent came about because of the administration imposing terms on the faculty, staff and graduate assistants without fair negotiations. She said “it drives a wedge between us that divides and demoralizes the campus community.”
She said the notices were filed to get the “Board of Trustees bargaining teams back at the table and negotiating in good faith” and “to encourage our employer to bring fair and reasonable proposals so we can reach acceptable agreements and conclude the negotiations for new multi-year contracts.”
Chancellor Rita Cheng said notices were sent out to faculty unions on Friday and Monday expressing a desire to return to the bargaining table. She said that possible dates were also sent out for times to return to the table. Cheng said it was made clear that the one-year contract put forth by the administration was only intended to cover the remaining months this year and was in no way a long term contract. She said she hopes “all parties can get back to bargaining in good faith.”
* My former intern Barton Lorimor took a look at the situation last night…
The two sides have been negotiating new union contracts upon the expiration of previous agreements that were overseen by an interim provost and temporary chancellor in 2006. This year’s talks have brought a federal mediator to the campus and been the subject of demonstrations throughout the process. Students and faculty members even demonstrated outside of Shryock Auditorium during Chancellor Rita Cheng’s installment ceremony earlier this month.
A previous report in the campus newspaper, the Daily Egyptian, said some of the unions have considered filing litigation against the university for imposing one-year employment terms on three of the unions without their approval. Randy Hughes, president of the tenured faculty union, would not say if today’s announcement concerns those threats but said such action remains under consideration.
Unions have been resistant to the university’s implementation of furlough days and talks of having to distribute lay-off notices as enrollment and financial support from the state has declined over the last six years. A representative from SIU President Glenn Poshard’s office has said the SIU system’s state allocation is now at levels not seen since fiscal year 1999.
Poshard has been consistent in publicly supporting Cheng’s performance since she became the Carbondale campus’ sixth chancellor in ten years last summer.
The administration has mostly brushed off claims made by union leaders that the university has exaggerated its declining fiscal condition. Just this month the unions claimed the administration is plotting to eliminate bargaining rights and discontinue tenure positions. Cheng has declined to comment on these claims in the local press but said any concerns over language in the one-year terms can be discussed for a future agreement.