These words are from Interim Chancellor Barb Wilson to Illinois students, in an email that went out this morning. These words would lead one to picture a room somewhere on campus where right now campus administrators and union negotiators are sitting across a table from each other trying to hammer out an agreement that will get faculty off the picket line and back into their classrooms. We in NTFC Local 6546 would very much like that to be the case. But that picture is wrong. Not only is it wrong now, it's been wrong for the past eighteen months.
Well, no, let me correct myself: negotiations been taking place for the past eighteen months on campus, if by "on campus" you mean the at Fire Service Institute out on the edge of Research Park.
So yes, that part's true. But although we've had 29 scheduled bargaining sessions since October 2014, along with two mediation sessions and three side meetings, there have been no meetings between union negotiators and administration since the last mediation session ended on March 30.
Well, no, let me correct myself. Leslie Arvan, the U of I's Director of Labor and Employment Relations, who has been heading the administration's negotiating team, contacted our strike coordinator to complain that she had not received timely notification of today's labor action. Fortunately, our strike coordinator, in the course of doing all the paperwork required by state labor law, had hand-delivered the letter and obtained a receipt from Ms. Arvan's secretary. So we were able to clear that up.
Apart from that, and the letter Interim Provost Ed Feser sent to all members of the bargaining unit represented by NTFC, we've had no contact from the administration.
So why can't we just wait until the scheduled April 27 mediation session? Probably because our first mediation session went like this
"neither prepared remarks nor any proposals": this has, sadly, been the union's experience of negotiating sessions, even before the mediator was introduced. We come with proposals ready to, you know, bargain, and the administration comes with nothing.
Well, no, again let me correct myself. In eighteen months of negotiating, they've come to the table with enough in the way of proposals that we've been able to reach tentative agreements on thirteen items, most of them among the least significant issues facing the union. They have yet to present proposals on three of the most important issues: evaluations, multiyear contracts, and reappointment notices. The union has asked, the administration's negotiations say they have "no interest" in discussing these matters. The issue of compensation, which many people assume is at the heart of any labor negotiation, has yet to be broached at all.
University administrators, however, say they feel progress has been made in the negotiations, noting that initial contracts often take months to hammer out.The university has had "months" to arrive at an agreement. We're coming up on "years," particularly at the pace that the university has set. When we've brought up that issue, the result was Rob Craddock, Assistant Director of Labor and Employee Relations, screaming in the hallway at our lead negotiator, that the union "doesn't get to bitch about the speed of bargaining." So that's how that went.
It doesn't have to take so long. In the interests of stewarding resources and limiting the time that both university administrators and faculty spend in the bargaining room, the administration could expedite matters by coming prepared with counterproposals. In fact, they could avoid replicating the expense of contract negotiations by agreeing to the contract U of I administration has already signed with NTT faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
According to the News-Gazette,
Feser said the campus is implementing procedures established in 2014 to allow for multiyear contracts and promotional opportunities for nontenure-track faculty, based on merit and performance; and updating policies to provide a stronger voice for them in departmental and college governance.That's odd. At the bargaining table, the administration has professed "no interest" in discussing any of these things.
So who exactly is continuing to "work with" us?