Negotiations for new AAUP contract begin

With the current teachers’ union, American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Oakland University teacher contract expiring Aug. 15, discussions have begun over a new three-year teacher contract.

“As of today all proposals from the AAUP are on the table,” said Michael Latcha,  AAUP chief negotiator, .

The issues

The AAUP is most concerned about the university’s current maternity policy and the issue of compression.

“It had legs like I am not used to seeing,” Karen Miller,  AAUP President, said about the professors’ reaction to the current lack of a maternity policy at the university. “It was the one of the most volatile reactions, and the emotional depth of the reaction was more than I expected.”

Miller said the department in which the professor works, in conjunction with the time of year they give birth, has a big impact on how they are treated and the time they get off.

The AAUP wants to have a set maternity policy written into the contract, according to Miller.

“It was not like we were not going to ask for it but the priority changed after the reaction we got,” she said.

According to both Miller and Latcha, compression is a real problem at OU that is starting to affect bringing in faculty.

“When people at the top of the pay scale begin to get pay stripped by those at the bottom of the pay scale you get compression,” Miller said.

According to Miller, the compression issue has increased since the last contract.

“People are getting hired in at salaries that are so high they get  paid the same as people that have been here for a long time,”  she said.

Both Miller and Latcha explained that in 2006, the university and the AAUP formed a group to look into the issue of compression.

“The number of faculty affected was 60 to 70 percent,” Miller said.

Miller indicated that in 2009, the issue of compression was not dealt with in the contract.

“We are not going to be able to fix (compression) in one year,” Miller said.

Miller said that the least painful solution to the issue of compression is to raise money over a period of time.

In order to deal with the issue of compression in this contract, Latcha said there is information the university has access to that the AAUP needs in order form a proposal.

“We have not been given and have been told we may not get, the information we need,”  Latcha said. “The university has access to national databases that are only open to universities and require subscriptions to access.”

Latcha said it is illegal for the university to withhold information from the AAUP. He added the AAUP could take the university to court if it is unwilling to give them the information.

According to Latcha, the AAUP would most likely avoid court and would instead be forced to put together a proposal  without the necessary information.

“We can not just let compression go away,”  Latcha said.

Latcha anticipates putting the financial proposal together and submitting it to the university by the end of July.

New kind of negotiation

Thus far the AAUP have not received or been given any indication the university has proposals that will be presented to the AAUP, according to Latcha.

He indicated negotiations are being done differently than in the past.

“The reason for the change may be because of the university’s new Chief Negotiator Robert Boonin who is  the attorney for Butzel Long,” Latcha said.

According to Latcha, this is the first time that the university has brought in someone who does not work for the university to be the chief negotiator.

“He is not part of the university community, he negotiates the contract and gets to leave; but, then again, his job is to get this thing done,” Miller said.

“It will be an awful lot of work for Mr. Boonin to get up to speed on various issues,” Latcha said.

“It is in the best interest of everyone to bring [proposals] to the table,” he said. “We can’t talk about stuff until they tell us about it.”

“Waiting until the last minute is not the best way to get someone to sign off on a proposal,”  Latcha said. He continued to say that springing issues on the AAUP at the last minute lead to the 2009 faculty strike.

Will there be a strike?

“No one was more surprised last time [there was a strike] than I was,”  Latcha said. “I have not yet talked with a faculty member who wants to go on strike. We are committed to having a contract and don’t wanna go on strike.”

Miller said she had recently spoken with University President Gary Russi, who said the university wants to have a new contract.

“It is still profoundly unlikely that there will be a strike,” she said. “The first day of classes is really the drop dead date that an agreement needs to get reached.”

Boonin did not want to discuss negotiation details at this time, but believes things are moving along at the correct pace.

“That said, please know that bargaining is proceeding in due course and that we are hopeful to have a new contract in place by the end of the Summer,” he said.