The Temple Association of University Professionals, which consists of 1,250 faculty members, has been negotiating with the university about terms for its contract, which was set to expire on Oct. 15, 2008.
The contract was extended to Nov. 15, 2008 under an agreement between TAUP and the university’s negotiating teams. The teams have not, however, reached an agreement.
The contract will not be formally extended again, said Arthur Hochner, president of TAUP and associate professor of human resource management.
All the terms in the existing contract will remain except for one, which prohibits strikes. There will be no pay increase, and all agreements made are tentative until a new contract is reached.
The faculty has not held a strike since 1990, despite contract negotiation difficulties that have occurred since then.
“We’re still far apart on many economic and non-economic issues,” Hochner said.
The issue creating the most controversy is the university’s desire to switch completely to merit pay in order to establish raises on an individual basis rather than through the entire union. This would potentially decrease the funds spent on faculty salaries as a whole.
While merit pay has always been a component of the salary package, it has never been the entire deal. Hochner said TAUP is not in favor of merit pay because it means some faculty members will never get a pay increase despite performing their jobs.
“Last year, through the current merit pay system, 37 percent of the non-tenure track faculty and 56 percent of the tenured and tenure-track faculty received merit increases,” a university official said. Temple’s negotiating teams propose that “‘exceptional’ performance would no longer be required for performance-based increases, thus enabling many more to qualify.”
“Temple’s economic proposal is simply a reshuffling of what they already had proposed a long time ago,” Hochner said. “They’re only talking about their own framework of what the economic package is and not attempting to meet us half way. They’re also refusing us on the issue of fair share and the only reason to do that is to weaken the union. It doesn’t give us confidence that they are treating us like partners in an effort to improve the university.”
“They’re taking in more money for tuition and putting out less for instructional support,” said Anthony Ranere, anthropology professor and TAUP executive board member. “It looks to us like they’re not putting their money where their mouth is. Pay-for-performance is just a way of giving them complete control over who they give raises to and who they don’t. That goes contrary to academic freedom and ability of faculty to be independent.”
“The university’s principle economic proposal places greater emphasis on pay increases based on individual performance,” a university official said. “Performance pay programs are increasingly common at other universities and are already in place at several schools within Temple and for Temple’s non-union employees.”
Hochner said TAUP is also concerned with job security for non-tenure track faculty members. Nearly 40 percent of faculty members are not eligible for tenure and most have one-year contracts. The union, however, is proposing that after a period of time, multi-year contracts be an option for non-tenure track faculty members to retain faculty members, as well as attract others from outside the university.
Although Temple’s tuition went up significantly this semester at an average of 5.9 percent, Hochner said faculty salaries did not follow suit. He added salaries have not kept up with inflation while Temple’s tuition rose above the rate of inflation.
The negotiating teams have only reached an agreement on a few issues, Hochner said. The university has stopped asking for department chairs to be recognized as managerial staff and, therefore, not be union members or be covered by the contract. They have also agreed to form a committee to discuss issues of diversity.
Hochner said Temple refuses to budge on the issue of fair share. TAUP is requesting those who choose not to join the union but who are still represented by TAUP be required to pay a fee for that service.
“Temple is saying ‘no,’” Hochner said. “We’re required to represent everyone but they don’t have to pay. Only 60 percent pay dues. Many decide not to because they don’t have to.”
“We oppose this mandatory imposition of a fee on all bargaining unit members for important reasons,” University Counsel George Moore said. “First, we do not believe that individuals who may disagree with the union’s positions in collective bargaining should be forced to pay for the union’s advocacy and enforcement of those positions. Such a requirement fails to respect legitimate differences of opinion and choices that faculty have made on their own, especially when 44 percent have decided not to join the union.”
“They’re completely stalled and pretty much haven’t changed at all,” Ranere said. “The union has changed their position and has offered various ways of getting to a compromise. The university has only been switching around how the money will be allocated but they haven’t changed the amount.”
TAUP has communicated with representatives of Temple Student Government. TSG passed a resolution yesterday in favor of supporting TAUP.
TAUP is circulating a petition addressed to President Ann Weaver Hart among the faculty stating they are dissatisfied with the state of negotiations. The union also has tentative plans to rally at the admissions open house Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008.
“It’s a possibility,” said James Korsh, TAUP executive board member. “We might do some informational picketing to let people know we’re in the middle of contract negotiations, and we’d like them to go better. If it’s not that, it will probably be something else.”
TAUP also filed a charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last week, accusing the university of committing unfair labor practices. TAUP is accusing the university of “direct dealing” through publications in the Temple Times. The union is requesting that Temple communicate with the negotiating team and not try to persuade employees directly.
“Yes, we have been communicating with faculty,” said Eryn Jelesiewicz, interim director of news communications. “We think it’s important for the entire community to have the latest, most accurate information.”
Hochner said TAUP has yet to hear whether or not there will be a hearing, but members expect to find out in a week or two.
“If there isn’t some break in this sooner or later, a strike is our ultimate weapon,” Ranere said. “If there isn’t some accommodation of our proposals by the university, we’ll have to resort to that.”
Kathryn A. López can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.