Tentative agreement reached, faculty strike is over – Classes start today at 7:30 a.m.

By Mas Rahman

UPDATE: OU and AAUP reached a tentative agreement Thursday morning. The faculty strike is over, and classes begin today (Thursday) at 7:30 a.m. AAUP said details of the tentative agreement faculty contract will released soon, after AAUP shares them with its members first. The tentative agreement is not official until all faculty vote on and approve it. OU: http://www.oakland.edu/view_news.aspx?sid=34&nid=5820, AAUP: http://oaklandaaup.org/

The following is from the AAUP:

Summary of important changes to the Agreement

Financial

  • Across-the-board salary adjustments: 2009-10: 0; 2010-11: 1%; 2011-12: 3%
    No merit adjustment for any year
    All distributed as percentage of salary
  • Faculty to be docked two day´s pay when agreement is ratified
    (the Administration refused to put this money into student scholarships)
    Fall 2009 cannot be extended for more than 2 days
  • 50-day salary re-opener in 2011-12 by either the Administration or the AAUP

Health-care

  • Faculty can enroll for BC/BS Standard only through open enrollment of 2011
  • Add another, lower-cost option for BC/BS PPO
  • HAP remains unchanged
  • BCN becomes Healthy Blue Living on 1-1-10
  • Priority Health byChoice HMO begins on 1-1-10
  • Other eligible adult/dependent children benefits

Other

  • $10,000/year added to faculty travel and research
  • School of Medicine faculty will not be part of the bargaining unit
  • Intellectual property language not changed, slight change in reporting to AAUP
  • Procedures for review of Workload Policies have been defined
  • Participation in online instruction now strictly voluntary
  • Number of Full-Time Adjunct faculty increased to 5% of full-time tenure track faculty
    (about 6 more), 3 reserved for SHS, 3 reserved for SON
  • Writing and Rhetoric department added to list of academic units and pay groups

Full details, including all language changes, will be available on September 11, 2009

 

An Oakland County Circuit Court judge told the Oakland University administration and the faculty union to continue bargaining for the new faculty contract “through the evening and all night if necessary” at around noon today.

 

“If the state mediator didn’t think there was some hope, I would not be doing this,” said Judge Edward Sosnick.

 

But if the two parties aren’t able to reach an agreement by 10 a.m. Thursday, the judge said he will hold a hearing then and make a final ruling on whether OU’s faculty have to call off the strike and go back to work.

 

At press time Wednesday night, the two teams hadn’t agreed on the contract, but hadn’t called it quits either, so it’s unclear if they’ll be in court Thursday. Visit www.oaklandpostonline.com for latest updates.

OU filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Tuesday afternoon, and the judge scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 10 a.m.

 

But instead of holding a formal hearing, the judge had brought both parties, their legal counsel, and the state mediator into his chamber for a couple hours to try to reach an agreement.

 

Henry Baskin, vice chair of OU’s board of trustees, said after the judge’s announcement that he believes the faculty will be back on classes Friday at latest.

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it got resolved today,” Baskin said. “I want the kids to know … don’t go home for the weekend because you’re going to be in school on Friday.”

 

He said it would be better if the two parties settled the matter between themselves rather than have the judge do it for them, because in the latter case at least one party would be hurt.

 

According to the motion filed by OU, the faculty strike will cause irreparable harm to OU if allowed to continue because it’s causing loss of confidence in and harm to the reputation of the university, monetary damage, loss in course work, and delayed graduation time of students, among other things.

 

If the hearing takes place Thursday, the burden will be on the AAUP to prove why the judge shouldn’t allow OU’s motion to be approved and force faculty back to classes.

 

Baskin also said he’s been told there are only a couple issues currently still being debated on, and that neither is insurmountable.

 

“I don’t want to belittle the issues … but [there are] no issues that can’t be accomplished,” he said.

 

Joel Russell, president of OU’s chapter of American Association of University Professors that represents about 600 faculty members, said at a rally Tuesday afternoon that if the judge ordered the faculty back to classes, they will go.

 

Russell also said OU and AAUP had almost reached an agreement on most issues Monday night, but that a couple issues — health care benefits and faculty governance — have still not been settled.

 

AAUP said OU offered a two-tiered plan that will make “less healthy people” pay more, and AAUP will not accept such a “discriminatory” plan, especially because it would be the first time a Michigan public university will have done something like this and AAUP doesn’t want to start a bad trend.

 

AAUP also said OU is trying to remove or decrease faculty input in academics, but that maintaining faculty input in important for students. But the administration doesn’t seem to agree.

 

“The faculty’s role in shared governance of the university will not be impacted in any way,” President Gary Russi said in an e-mail sent to students.

 

OU also said in the court documents that the strike (or “unfair labor practice protest” as AAUP is calling it) is illegal, and cited the Michigan Public Employee Relations Act which says a strike or similar actions in a different name is illegal for public employees. OU is a public university.

 

Baskin said AAUP believes its claim of unfair labor practice, which prompted AAUP to file a lawsuit last Wednesday because it believed OU hadn’t bargained fairly all summer, trumps the state law, while OU believes state law trumps unfair labor practice.

 

In the court documents, OU also claimed that AAUP “knowingly and intentionally filed false charges,” regarding the lawsuit.