College faculty willing to alter position on binding arbitration

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(Host) A resolution to end the stalemate over the state budget appears to be at hand. Faculty members at the Vermont State Colleges say they’re willing to change their position on the use of binding arbitration to resolve a dispute over early retirement benefits.

Even so, Governor Jim Douglas says it’s likely that he’ll still call for a special session to remove that provision officially from the state’s budget.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Douglas is set to veto the budget bill because he feels very strongly that the controversial provision overturns a ruling by the Vermont Labor Relations Board.

There were concerns that an impasse between the governor and Democratic leaders could result in the state not having a budget in place on July first which is the start of the new fiscal year.

After examining these realities, faculty leaders of the Colleges announced they would submit a contract to their members based on the Labor Board’s decision – a move that makes it unnecessary for the state budget to specifically address this issue.

Dawn Carleton is the vice president of the faculty federation:

(Carleton) “We never expected that a simple labor dispute which we tried to settle by following the laws as written in the state of Vermont would lead to a threatened shut down of the state. But in this scenario which we are in, it would be irresponsible of us to continue to press to the point where we do harm the citizens of this state. And that’s what’s left before us.”

(Kinzel) The faculty did win something in return. Legislative leaders have promised to conduct a study of the State Colleges to look at concerns about morale and the increased use of part time professors.

Senate president Peter Welch:

(Welch) “The fact is that it’s become increasingly apparent to us that there are serious issues of leadership at the Vermont State College system. Second, there are policies underway that are very questionable and that is, in effect, the outsourcing of the academic mission by excessive reliance on part time and adjunct faculty.”

(Kinzel) The governor says he’d like to deal with this issue as soon as possible.

(Douglas) “We have to get that budget in place for the next fiscal year as quickly and responsibly as we can. So I expect to call a special session for probably late next week. The clock is ticking. We can’t wait any longer.”

(Kinzel) There is a possibility that the faculty members could ratify their new contract in the next few days. If that happens, Douglas says he’ll check with his legal advisors to see if a special session is still needed. He thinks it will be.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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