University says FA wants $10 million in 3 years

My last summer in college, I was taking classes, working two jobs, preparing for my Saginaw News internship and trying to make the most of my rapidly ending college career. I’m especially proud of the work I did that summer for Central Michigan Life, my college paper. To this day, the biggest story of my career were the ongoing faculty negotiations during a labor dispute. The story lasted beyond my time at Life, but I remain very proud of the work I did that summer. This is one of many stories I broke working on this subject. It was very complex but so very important to the university at the time.

See the original version of this story here.

The university and Faculty Association cannot reach consensus on 17 items before signing their next three-year contract and have petitioned for fact finding.

Some of the key issues leading to disagreement are compensation, health benefits, recognition — who is included in the bargaining group — and tenure policy.

Mediation between the groups ended Thursday. Ray Christie, vice provost of academic administration, sent an email to employees Tuesday afternoon that said the university and FA were unable to make “meaningful progress” during mediation sessions.

The groups met three times for mediation; the FA contract expired June 30. The university has not extended the faculty contract, which it has done in years prior.

Laura Frey, FA president and professor of counseling and special education said Christie’s message was inaccurate and misleading.

“The update that was sent out … is a blatant attempt to circumvent the bargaining process,” Frey said. “That was sent out to the FA leadership and the community, with Ray Christie being a member of the bargaining team. The update includes inaccuracies and misleading characterizations of the FA position … it’s extremely frustrating that (he) as a member of the administration’s bargaining team has decided to release that information.”

Both sides have filed for fact finding, Frey said.

Disputed points

Fact finding is conducted by the state, said Ruthanne Okun, director of the Bureau of Employee Relations.

“Fact finding goes beyond mediation,” she said. “A third party looks at both sides and issues a recommendation. The parties then go back to bargaining based on that recommendation.”

Okun said the factfinder should be appointed within the week.

“In the recent proposal, the university has offered increases equal to 4 (percent) over a three-year contract,” Christie said. “Overall, however, the (FA) proposal would raise salaries by 9.8 (percent) … The total compensation — salary and related benefits — would increase the university’s base budget by approximately $10 million.”

According to the petition, the university proposes a freeze for 2011-12 and 1-percent increases plus a flat amount of $830 and $835 for 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively.

The FA proposes a freeze for the fall semester 2011-12, a 1-percent-plus-$1,000 increase in the spring; in 2012-13, 1 percent plus $500 for fall, 1.5 percent plus $500 for the spring; in 2013-14, 1.25 percent plus $500 in the fall and 1.5 percent plus $500 in the spring.

The university proposes compensation at $1,470 per credit hour for summer courses and the FA wants to maintain current contract language with a $8,250 cap per course. The university wants the number contingent on FA acceptance of language on supplemental assignments.

Both groups agree on overload salary — $1,470 per credit hour, but the university also wants that number contingent on FA acceptance of language on supplemental assignments.

The university wants to maintain current health and prescription drug coverage rates until January 1, 2012. At that point, it wants to convert FA employees to the CMU plan “at rates paid for other benefit-eligible employees.”

Those rates include increases each year to the monthly contribution made by the university. Other CMU employees are covered under a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with 91 percent of premiums covered, Christie said in the email.

The FA wants to maintain Michigan Education Special Services Association benefits at 95 percent with a 10/20 prescription card for all three years of the contract.

With dental coverage, the university is proposing the same CMU plan “at rates paid for other benefit eligible employees;” the FA wants 100 percent of a 100/50/50 plan.

The university’s factfinding petition said it wants to remove coaches, librarians and counselors hired after July 1, 2011 from the bargaining unit, as well as College of Medicine and CMU First Professional Degree faculty members.

The university wants to change the current reappointment, tenure and promotion policy.

CMU wants to “(strengthen) the quality requirement of application materials, (and) extend the time in rank from 4 to 5 years for professor salary adjustment,” while the FA wants to change the reappointment process in terms of number and timeline for applying.

The university also wants to change the language for salary adjustments for promotion and completion of terminal degrees.

Outside counsel hired

The university has hired Vercruysse Murray & Calzone, a law firm from Bingham Farms which specializes in labor and employment issues.

“These lawyers have experience in handling major negotiations, strikes, class action and complex litigation, non-competittion litigation, injunctions, union avoidance, organizaing unfair labor practices, arbitrations, ERISA litigation, OSHA, MDCR, DOL and EEOC complaints and all forms of employment litigation,” the firm’s website said.

Steve Smith, director of public relations, said the university solicits outside counsel for a number of things, though it does employ a general counsel, Manuel Rupe.

In a statement, Rupe said he recommended outside counsel in the matter of faculty negotiations. Rupe directed the university to the firm because of its expertise and prior success.

“CMU evaluates, for example, the law firm’s expertise in a particular area of the law, its prior success in representing CMU or other public universities in similar matters,” Rupe said.

Frey would not say if the FA had legal representation.

“We have an FA bargaining team that we have great confidence in and that includes our (Michigan Education Association) leadership,” she said.

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