UVM faculty to vote on union contract

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(Host) University of Vermont faculty will decide Thursday whether to ratify UVM’s first faculty union contract.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The agreement was announced last month after more than a year of negotiations. The three-year contract calls for a roughly 16% pay increase. Union officials say the agreement also gives faculty a say in university decisions and protects non-tenured faculty.

The union has held several informational meetings to explain the contract to faculty. Linda Backus is acting president of the union.

(Backus) “The reception has been very positive. Everybody seems to think the whole package together is really what this university needed and it will help to strengthen the faculty. It will achieve the principles and goals that we set out.”

(Zind) Backus says she expects faculty to approve the contract. She says union membership has increased since the agreement was reached. Currently about 55% of 600 UVM faculty belong to the union.

Political Science Professor Anthony Gierzynski says he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll join. Gierzynski says he thinks the agreement is a good one, but he’s concerned the benefits may not be as great as many people believe.

(Gierzynski) “It’ll be interesting to see once the pay raises kick in and once the union dues kick in, how much we’ll ultimately benefit from that. So I still have some skepticism over the long run about whether the benefits are going to outweigh the costs.”

(Zind) Backus says the union’s work won’t be finished once the contract is signed. Implementing the details of the agreement will take cooperation between the faculty and the administration.

During negotiations, both sides filed complaints with the state labor board. Eventually an impasse was declared. An agreement was reached only after a mediator was brought in. Backus says there’s a better relationship now between the parties:

(Backus) “I think that after slogging things out together and having to work it out, that you start to develop a pattern of understanding and I think that pattern is going to continue.”

(Zind) Backus says maintaining that pattern will be important. Negotiations over the next contract will begin next year.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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