Message from the Provost Concerning Negotiations with Faculty Unions

Dear Colleagues,

I write to update you on the negotiations that have been ongoing with the UIC United Faculty, Local 6456 (tenure/tenure track and non-tenure track) since negotiations began in June 2018.  I have participated in all of the 17 negotiation sessions with one exception because of scheduling. I am choosing now to provide an update to you, the UIC faculty, because it has become clear that although I and the rest of the administration have agreed to or offered significant changes to the current contract that benefit and support the faculty, we do not believe that the nature of our discussions and the extent of these benefits have been adequately communicated to the faculty.

My concern is not only with the lack of complete information on union-controlled social media, but significantly, it also comes from my concern that the unions are proposing changes to the contract that will impinge upon the long-established and well-functioning faculty governance mechanisms at UIC, both at the department and college levels, and through the faculty senate. For example, the union is suggesting that the university increase the proportion of tenure-track and tenured faculty by converting non-tenure track faculty to tenure-track faculty, without a search. They are also suggesting that the contract adopt processes that could interfere with the operation and outcomes of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure in academic freedom cases.

Next week, we will launch a website with FAQ’s about the negotiations. In the meanwhile, the following are a few examples of items that the administration has already offered or agreed to at the request of the unions:

Non-Economic Contract Terms

  • “Citizenship status” and “expressions of gender identity” have been added to the contract’s non-discrimination statement.
  • Clear expectations, including course load and enrollments, must be created for NTT faculty by each department.
  • Concerns about campus safety, the UIC Lactation Policy and the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus will be addressed through the creation of a committee that includes union members. In fact, and without reference to these negotiations, the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services is already gathering information and either addressing or preparing to address all of these concerns.

Economic Contract Terms

  • The minimum salary for bargaining unit members with the rank of Instructor, Lecturer, Clinical Assistant Professor or Research Assistant Professor will be raised by 26%, and minimum salaries have also been set for other NTT professorial ranks at the associate and full levels.
  • Non-tenure-track system bargaining unit members are now eligible for double the amount of professional development funds than under the previous contract.
  • NTT faculty are eligible for 2-year contracts after the fourth consecutive year of employment instead of the fifth, and for 3-year contracts (the longest contracts that the university statutes permit us to offer) after six years instead of ten years, which was the length of time in the previous contract.
  • The funds currently set aside each year for CEMR – Compression, Equity, Market, and Retention – will now only be used to address compression and equity. Market and retention funds will be covered by other college and departmental resources. This will allow the colleges to better address compression and equity issues across the university.

The administration has offered at this point a 3.5% salary increase pool for AY18-19 (2% merit; 1.5% equity & compression), and guaranteed 2.5% for AY19-20 and AY20-21 (1.5% merit; 1.0% equity & compression). The merit raises are minimums and the faculty would be entitled to more if the system-wide salary program includes a higher merit pool.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide what the unions are asking, which is a guaranteed 8% salary pool in AY19-20 (6% merit; 2% compression & equity) and a guaranteed 6% salary pool in AY18-19 and AY20-21 (4% merit; 2% compression & equity). If we were to make this kind of commitment – without a significant increase in the state appropriation or in undergraduate tuition – these salaries would throw nearly all of the colleges into severe deficits that would require significant cuts and/or hiring freezes. This would be harmful to the progress we have made and the momentum we are currently enjoying.  These issues would be significantly exacerbated if there were also a recession or financial downturn in the economy. Similarly, the unions’ proposal that the university be required to hire at least 30 tenured/tenure-track faculty each year would bind us to a commitment that we cannot possibly know if we can fulfill, for the same reasons stated above. It is worth noting that I have repeatedly offered to demonstrate these points through a budget presentation to the union bargaining team and they have repeatedly declined. Nevertheless, and despite their lack of interest, we plan to do so at the next session.

I believe that Dr. Barish and I have shown over the past three years our dedication to the hiring and retention of faculty, even outside of any formal hiring program or college timetables. I remain optimistic that we will reach a reasonable and fair agreement with the unions, and I am fully committed to doing so in a way that provides the most generous and responsible terms in light of our capacity and our mission.

Susan Poser

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