UVM hits contract stalemate with faculty union

BURLINGTON — The union representing faculty at the University of Vermont has reached an impasse in contract negotiations with the administration, according to both sides.

The stalemate comes after seven months of talks failed to produce an agreement. In a statement Tuesday, United Academics said impasse is not an unusual step in the collective bargaining process. “Almost all of our previous contracts have come after impasse,” the statement said.

There are two separate United Academics bargaining units, one for full-time faculty and the other for part-time faculty. The current impasse declaration came from the full-time faculty union, which represents 725 faculty members.

As a next step, the two sides will engage a neutral mediator, and possibly a fact-finder, in an effort to come to a resolution. The university and the union are at odds over salaries.

The administration is offering a 2 percent salary increase. Tom Streeter, a spokesman for United Academics, said that could result in “sub-inflation pay raises” for some union members.

United Academics said that, according to its analysis of the current budget, UVM would need to put $11.7 million more toward “instruction and research,” which the union says includes faculty salaries, in order to be in line with “the average of other schools that the administration dubs UVM’s peers.”

In its own statement, the university said current salaries for union faculty are “at or above market levels.” UVM faculty were at more than 104 percent of the average salary for “public high research institutions,” according to a University of Oklahoma survey.

The idea that UVM would need to raise tuition to provide full-time union faculty a raise of more than 2 percent is a red herring, Streeter said. “UVM is not broke. In 2016 and 2017, they brought in millions more dollars in tuition revenue than they expected,” he said.

UVM’s two other unions, the Teamsters and United Electrical Workers, have settled three-year contracts with 2 percent annual raises, according to university officials.

Streeter said a number of United Electrical Workers members actually will get more of a boost because the union’s workers who start at $12 an hour earn a $1 increase annually up to $14 an hour, on top of the 2 percent increase in the contract.

Both the faculty union and the university said they are committed to negotiating a fair contract through mediation.

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