UVM, faculty union declare impasse

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(Host) After almost ten months of contract negotiations, the University of Vermont and the union representing the faculty have declared an impasse.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Late yesterday, the University announced the impasse had been declared by both sides. The United Academics Union represents about 600 UVM faculty members.

The impasse means they’ll bring in a mediator to try and move the process along. It’s also gives both sides an opportunity to talk openly about their differences for the first time since negotiations began last December.

Linda Backus is acting president of the Union. Backus says negotiators disagree on many points but most of the differences come down to how to deal with non-tenured faculty. Backus says the group makes up almost 40% of UVM faculty. She says the administration and the union are far apart on issues like job security and professional development for non-tenured members.

(Backus) “The big sticking point is that the University wants to maintain an expendable pool of labor that works on year to year contracts, that does the great bulk of the work. They have no job security, they never know from year to year if they have a job. And the University wants to continue that practice.”

(Zind) In a statement released late yesterday, UVM Provost John Bramley said: “Negotiating a first contract is difficult and time consuming, especially with a faculty unit that includes both tenure-track and non tenure-track faculty.” Bramley says there are substantial differences between the two sides. He called the University’s contract proposal “eminently reasonable.”

Now that an impasse has been declared the Vermont Labor Relations Board gets involved. Timothy Noonan is the Board’s executive director.

(Noonan) “The parties notify the Labor Board that they are at impasse and they ask the Board to appoint a mediator. But practically speaking, the way it usually works out, the parties agree on a mediator and the Board certifies that.”

(Zind) If the parties fail to reach an agreement under a mediator, Noonan says a fact finding panel would step in and recommend contract terms. If that doesn’t work, the Labor Relations Board could impose an agreement on the parties.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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