01 May Time for Admin to Take Bargaining Seriously
- UICUF continued negotiating the impacts of COVID19 with the administration this week.
- While we have convinced admin to reconsider policies like reopening the library against all public health advice, they have made it clear that they are not interested in putting any agreements in writing.
- While UICUF is committed to being a good partner in working with university administration, our role is above all to advocate for faculty, as well as the students we serve.
- We will, therefore, begin mobilizing for action around our key demands: The extension of all NTT contracts for one year, the release of PD funds for broad use (including hiring student assistants), and transparency/inclusivity in planning for the next academic year.
Productive Conversation, or Meet-and-Ignore?
We met once again with representatives of the university administration this week to discuss our demands over the impacts of COVID19 policies on our contract, most of which we submitted in writing over a month ago. To date, we have convinced the university to reverse course on bad policy decisions, like reopening the library against all public health advice, and we have successfully pushed them to take positive actions like extending tenure clocks.
Unfortunately, we’ve had little traction on our most critical and time sensitive issues. At this point it does not appear that the university is willing to consider putting anything in a written form that can actually be signed as a binding agreement. That is to say that they are not acting as though they recognize our right to bargain these issues, despite the legal obligation to do so. This most recent session has made it clear that the administration may put our ideas in practice when it is convenient for them, but on serious issues like job security for vulnerable faculty, they’re perfectly happy to continue a policy that looks suspiciously like meet-and-ignore.
Three Key Issues
We currently have three key issues on the table which can only be adequately addressed through written agreements, negotiated via the impact bargaining process:
- Expanding the use of Professional Development funds: we are by far the closest on this, having secured Provost Poser’s agreement in principle to allow PD funds intended for travel to be rolled over to the next academic year. We have proposed that ALL PD funds be opened up for broad teaching and research development purposes, including hiring student assistants (a common and uncontroversial practice that Labor Relations is digging its heels in over). These funds are already budgeted, but cannot be used under the current travel restrictions UIC has in place. The administration has told us to expect a response on this important matter soon.
- Guaranteeing the Reappointment of NTT Faculty: over 100 NTT faculty appointments will end as soon as May 15th, with up to 200 more potentially ending in August. NTT faculty are the backbone of many departments, teaching the vast majority of first-year classes, and are an indispensable component in UIC’s teaching mission. While we acknowledge that budgets are tight, UIC must do everything in its power to retain qualified faculty, in order to protect jobs, retain expertise, and provide a stable learning environment for students. We have proposed that the administration commit to retaining all full-time faculty, and to do so ASAP to avoid confusion and uncertainty. If you are concerned about your own contractual status as an NTT faculty member, please reach out to us immediately so we can discuss how we might be able to help you.
- Representation in 2020-2021 Planning: According to President Killeen’s recent announcement, a system-wide planning committee will be convened to plot a future course amid the pandemic, and a UIC committee will also meet under Provost Poser’s direction. Notably absent from either of these committees is the presence of any union representation, even though their work will de facto impact our union contract. Decisions impacting our contract must be made in discussion with the union. For this reason, we are demanding a seat at the table.
Preparing for Action
As we’ve said, these are demands that can’t simply be satisfied by an email announcement. With seemingly little appetite on the part of Admin to address these issues with binding agreements, if we want to move forward we must prepare to take more significant action. Our staff team and leadership are working on potential activities that will send the clear message: Administration cannot ignore its obligations to its workers.
They have told us that everyone will be expected to make sacrifices, but they seem to expect those sacrifices to be made by employees with no voice in those decisions. They must make a clear and public commitment to faculty — the heart of the university — that they will engage us before decisions are made, and they must commit to retaining ALL of the faculty who make this university work.
If you are interested in getting involved with planning and promoting actions around impact bargaining and the many critical issues facing us during this crisis, please email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com
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