19 April 2016

I Do Not Think the Word "Discussion" Means What You...Are We Seriously Here Again?

Two MassMails from the Interim Chancellor in one day.  The second came while I was walking the picket line, so I didn't get to read it until just now.  You can find the first and my thoughts on it here.

Oh gosh. It's long.  The first one was so short.  So was the Interim Provost's MassMail last week.  It's like the Chancellor is actually trying to engage with some of our concerns, which is fantastic. One grows weary of the platitudinous nothings that usually populate MassMails.

In that spirit of robust engagement (did I say that right?) let me isolate a few key points (it's been a long day):

"It is important to note that the NTFC has chosen to strike after just one introductory meeting and one work session with that mediator."
Sure. It's also important to note that the administration showed up to that mediation session with no prepared remarks, no prepared proposal, no nothing.  A mediator's not a magician.  If both sides don't present something to mediate, it's just a waste of everyone's time and workday.  After eighteen months, the union bargaining team doesn't have more time to waste.

"As a campus, we support multi-year contracts, as demonstrated by the authorization and encouragement to units in Provost’s Communications No. 17 and 25 to issue such contracts."
It should be lost on no one that Provost Communication #25 came into being in April 2014, just as momentum was building for an NTT union.  That's when we started getting called "specialized faculty."  PC 26 sounds an awful lot like a collective bargaining agreement, except that the language is entirely provisional.  Lots of things--the kinds of things that a union can negotiate in a contract like procedures for promotion and multiyear contracts--should happen.  There is no provision to ensure that they will.

"Individual academic units are best-positioned to award multi-year contracts, as they best know their unique curricular needs and financial capacity. Multi-year contracts should be awarded based on performance, evaluation and merit, not centrally mandated and automatically granted based on the amount of time someone has worked here."
Somehow departments manage to develop their own criteria for tenure and post-tenure promotion, while still adhering to institution-wide expectations for the schedule and administration of that process.  The multiyear contracts that the union wants would be two-year contracts after five years of service, three-year contracts after ten years of service.  If someone has sufficient "performance, evaluation, and merit" to be hired for five consecutive years, then a two-year commitment is not a huge risk.  Of course, that's setting aside the issue of how "performance, evaluation, and merit" are going to be determined.  The administration doesn't want to contractually bind anyone to annual performance reviews either.

"Where we differ with the NTFC is in our belief that robust shared governance – something we greatly wish to protect – is not served by bypassing our governance processes and legislating it through a labor contract. Labor contracts are intended to address wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment."
We're happy to write the existing governance processes into a contract, if they in fact give NTTs a voice and protect their academic freedom.  Right now these are allotted on an ad hoc basis, like many other NTT working conditions, with no guarantees that they will withstand a change in department or unit leadership, be administered equitably, or get the backing of other relevant administrative units. Also, for faculty?  Academic freedom and shared governance are "conditions of employment."

"The campus and NTFC have important and principled differences that deserve discussion, which is why we stand ready to continue the negotiations as planned. Future sessions are scheduled for April 27, May 11, May 26 and June 26."
The administration has had eighteen months to engage us in "important and principled differences that deserve discussion."  We've shown up to bargaining session after bargaining session, ready to discuss.  The administration has shown up with nothing, as they did to the first mediation session.

So which is the administration now offering: a discussion of "important and principled differences" or a resistance to the very notion that some of those "important and principled differences" have anything to the working lives of NTT faculty?   The very fact that they can't articulate a clear position on that question suggests that what lies ahead is more stalling.  But they can call up our negotiating team any time to prove that assessment wrong.

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