UO contract fight drags on

Published May 9, 2013 at 05:00AM

EUGENE — Bargainers working on a new faculty contract at the University of Oregon are debating bread-and-butter issues such as pay and benefits along with questions about who’s in charge at the Eugene school, officials said.

Negotiating sessions have been held every other week since last year, but both sides say progress has been slow on a new deal for the 1,800-member United Academics of the University of Oregon.

About 100 professors, instructors and supporters demonstrated Tuesday outside Knight Library, the Eugene Register-Guard reported.

As bargaining got underway, the union asked for 7.5 percent across-the-board raises over three years and other increases that would cost the university about $26 million. The university proposed 4.5 percent across-the-board raises and merit pay that would cost about $14 million, the newspaper said.

To offer more, administrators would have to cut programs or raise tuition, said Tim Gleason, an administration representative and dean of the School of Journalism and Communication.

The university already has proposed a 6 percent increase in tuition and fees for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The union contends the administration has access to $100 million in unrestricted net assets that it could tap to pay for raises.

Faculty members also want a contract that recognizes their voice in how the university is governed so they can fight what they see as damaging trends such as cheap online courses, said Peter Keyes, union spokesman and an associate professor of architecture.

However, Gleason said negotiations were being slowed by the debate over language and the nature of the university.

The faculty members say the university charter and Oregon law define the school in two elements — the university president and the faculty. The faculty members want the contract to refer to management as either “administration” or “university administration.”

Gleason said the university — not the administration — is the legal entity that’s forging a contract with the union, and bargainers won’t sign “anything that refers to us as anything but the university.”

Union officials insist progress has been slowed because the administration takes issues to a behind-the-scenes committee, not by the language question.

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