After two years, AAUP, admins finalize contract
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
The American Association of Professors and University of New Hampshire professors have finalized a contract after nearly two years of negotiations.
Professors were unable to devise a contract with agreeable terms on two fact-finder reports after their contract expired back in 2010. The contract had only been in effect for one year.
The university’s Board of Trustees voted to accept the new contract on June 19 with UNH President Mark Huddleston’s compliance.
“After a long and difficult round of negotiations, I was very pleased both sides agreed to compromise and accept the recommendations of the fact-finder,” Huddleston said. “We will have to work hard to balance the budget given the 48 percent cut in support from the from the state and the increased financial implications of the contract, but I am confident we can overcome the challenges because we must.”
The AAUP obtained salaries that will keep UNH faculty members competitive with their peers. In this round of negotiations, the university and the Faculty Union accepted the recommendations of a neutral fact-finder.
“Like all contract settlements, it is a compromise,” said Dale Barkey, chief negotiator for the AAUP-UNH chapter and professor of chemical engineering. “The university obtained some, if not all, of the benefits concessions it was seeking.”
The issues with the first contract had been proposed salary increases, cuts to benefits and alterations that would make it easier to fire employees who failed to abide by university rules.
Wages will remain frozen under the new contract during its first year, and gradual growth among these wages will begin to appear in fiscal year 2012.
Former UNH lead negotiator Candace Corvey is certain all involved are particularly pleased that the contract covers a five-year period through June 30, 2015.
“I believe the final outcome represents as fair a compromise as was possible,” Corvey said. “It leaves UNH well-positioned with respect to its ability to continue to recruit and retain high quality faculty, while honoring the fact that there are many other legitimate competing demands on UNH’s extremely limited resources.”
In regard to faculty salaries offered at comparable schools, the average UNH faculty salary is 2.3 percent lower, according to the university. Among these schools are the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, University of Maine and University of Vermont.
In spite of this, however, President of the AAUP-UNH Deanna Wood said the faculty fared better than most other competitors in New England and the Middle Atlantic, maintaining steady improvement in salary and benefits.
The goal for the new contract, which was to finalize a decision that would recognize and value the role of faculty on campus, never wavered.
“There is no greater priority than the investment needed to attract and retain the highest quality faculty and staff so our students continue to receive the best possible education,” Huddleston said.
Faculty members will still face cuts to health benefits while health-care costs continue to rise. Wood said the reason for this rise was due to the nation’s inefficient and fragmented health-care system.
“Health care is particularly expensive in New Hampshire,” Wood said.
The university is represented by the vice president for finance and administration and one of the deans of the colleges here at UNH. There is no proposal, suggestion or idea that can be considered without the response of the Board.
“The weakest part of the process was the absence of all the principles at the bargaining table,” Wood said. “The Board of Trustees is represented by a chief negotiator who is hired to bring their positions to the table.”
Wood said that the process of having to go through the Board for every minor detail was too time-consuming.
This last Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) Board of Trustees and the UNH Chapter of the AAUP was the result of over two years of discussion, mediation and fact-finding.
In Wood’s opinion, the completed contract represents the best efforts of all who are concerned.
“Both sides made gains and both sides suffered some losses primarily because of the current economic conditions and the aversion of the State of New Hampshire to fund public higher education,” she said.
“All in all, I believe we negotiated a good contract for the faculty. The full participation of the Board of Trustees, however, could have saved significant time, university resources and a lot of frustration.”