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Updated 11:00 AM April 5, 2004
 

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  Contract negotiations stalled over economic issues
Provosts urge instructors not to walk


The University is urging members of the Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO) to cover their classes and carry on all assigned duties April 8, the day of a proposed walkout.

A letter last week to deans and department chairs from the provosts of all three campuses encouraged leaders to remind faculty and graduate student instructors that a strike by public employees is against the law in Michigan. More importantly, the letter said, a walkout would "represent a serious disruption of the educational activities of the University."

Bargaining last week between the University and LEO failed to reach consensus on several key issues, increasing the likelihood that union leaders will approve the one-day work stoppage, says spokesperson Ian Robinson, LSA lecturer. LEO leaders sent ballots to members more than a week ago asking for a strike authorization, which empowers union leadership to decide whether to proceed with a walkout. Robinson says the outcome of the vote likely would be known April 4, after the Record went to press.

To date, the teams have reached agreement on 34 issues since meetings began in August. Three significant issues—job stability, salaries and benefits—remain unresolved. With respect to these matters, Provosts Paul N. Courant (Ann Arbor), Robert Simpson (U-M-Dearborn) and Renate McLaughlin (U-M-Flint) wrote in a letter that the "University must balance the interests of these valued faculty members with our responsibilities to other faculty and staff, and to our students during a time of limited financial resources."

"The University has made reasonable proposals in the areas of salary, job stability and benefits that would substantially improve the circumstances of LEO members," the provosts wrote.

Bonnie Halloran, LEO president and U-M-Dearborn adjunct lecturer of behavioral sciences, says the budget should not be an excuse for failing to meet some of the union's demands for better compensation for its 1,500 members.

"This situation has been going on for 15 years," Halloran says. "It so happens this is a bad budget year. That's a rather simplistic view of the problem."

Halloran says LEO and the University are "miles apart" on economic issues. "We're not talking the same language to each other," she says.

In addition to the letter, the provosts sent a summary of the key bargaining issues, highlighting the proposals made by each side. They include:

Job stability:

LEO position: The union is asking that all members, after a two- to two-and-a-half-year probationary period, be appointed indefinitely, with termination only for "cause."

University position: The union's proposal would represent a fundamental change in how the University appoints its faculty, the provosts say. The University has proposed that all regular lecturers who have been employed satisfactorily for four years of continuous service would be eligible for multi-year contracts, provided that the individual has met performance standards and that the department has identified ongoing instructional and programmatic needs as well as the necessary budget support. Other non-tenure-track instructors (including adjunct faculty) who have completed three consecutive years of service would be eligible for one-year appointments. The University also has committed to notice of reemployment for the coming academic year no later than April 1, with compensatory pay to the instructor if a course must be cancelled after that notification.

Salaries:

LEO: The union is asking that the University create a minimum full-time salary rate of $40,000 for lecturers and adjunct faculty at all three campuses, plus an annual increase with each year of service up to 10 years, with a minimum annual salary of $65,200 after a decade of continuous service. LEO also has requested an increase in all salaries of 6 percent retroactive to the Fall 2003 term, with additional increases of 4 percent in each of the next two years.

University: The University says the cost of LEO's wage proposals, conservatively estimated, would be in excess of $12 million in fiscal year 2005. The University proposed to set a minimum full-time rate for LEO members at each campus as follows: Ann Arbor, $28,000; Dearborn, $20,800; and Flint, $20,000. These proposals would raise the salaries of 256 of the lowest paid members of the union and would cost the University approximately $300,000 annually. Current average full-time salaries for members of LEO are $37,000 for the Ann Arbor campus, $26,600 for the Flint campus and $23,800 for the Dearborn campus.

Benefits:

LEO: The union has proposed for its members rolling back the requirements for employee premium contributions; increasing University premium contributions to be based upon the highest-cost health insurance option; continuation of University premium contributions while on unpaid leave of absence; and pro-rated University premium contributions for unit members with appointment fractions between 25 and 50 percent.

University: The University says the change proposed by LEO would be significantly more generous than the benefits offered to other faculty or employee groups. LEO members appointed at 50 percent or greater, even for just one term, currently receive the same benefits as other University faculty and staff members during the term(s) in which they teach. This includes medical insurance for members and their dependents. As part of its comprehensive package, the University has proposed to continue providing benefits during the spring/summer terms for returning instructors who have been employed at 50 percent or greater in both the preceding fall and winter terms.

Details about the progress of bargaining can be found on the University's Web site at http://www.umich.edu/~hraa/leo/.

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