UA makes ''last, best'' offer to one faculty union

Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The University of Alaska has made its ''last, best'' offer to one of its faculty unions, according to the UA vice president for faculty and staff relations.

But Alaska Community Colleges' Federation of Teachers president Bob Congdon said negotiations will continue. He also took issue with claims made by UA vice president James Johnsen in a letter to union members.

''It just isn't accurate on its face,'' Congdon said Wednesday.

The ACCFT represents about 300 full-time faculty statewide at outlying sites from Ketchikan to Kotzebue plus about half the faculty at campuses in Anchorage and Juneau. Another union, United Academics, represents about 850 faculty members.

Johnsen sent his letter Friday with management's account of negotiations to date. Since September, he said, negotiating teams have met 50 times, including several sessions with a federal mediator.

''Part of the reason for our lack of success lies in honest and strongly held differences on issues like salary, health benefits, union release time, dispute resolution, and Board of Regents' policy,'' he wrote.

Johnsen said the UA's offer includes:

Salary increases totaling 11.8 percent over three years for cost-of-living increases for all faculty, market or equity adjustments and performance increases;

A choice of health benefits plans with one option that is accompanied by a large increase in the UA contribution to health care costs; and

Terms similar to the United Academics contract in dispute resolution, promotion and tenure, leave and other issues.

Congdon said the salary offer is actually a 5.7 percent increase with the possibility of the higher figure.

''It's all discretionary,'' he said. ''Our experience is that they don't have to exercise that discretion.''

The health care increase is attached to a plan for which details have not been revealed, Congdon said. He said union representatives would be willing to talk about it once they see the plan.

Johnsen, who was in Seattle on Wednesday and could not be reached by phone, said external conditions beyond the control of the university or the union are affecting the negotiations.

''Health care inflation is climbing at the rate of 15 percent per year, the university's contribution to faculty retirement funds will increase by 40 percent next year and is projected to increase by an additional 30 percent the year after,'' he wrote.

He also noted that the state is in increasingly dire fiscal straits with substantial budget cuts on the horizon. Gov. Frank Murkowski vetoed $138 million from the state budget approved by the Legislature last session, including about $112 million from the operating budget, and is looking to cut up to another $250 million from the budget next year.

The ACCFT has said in the past that university salaries are lower than the national average, especially for union professors. The university contends that most are community college-type faculty and should not be compared with faculty working at doctoral-granting institutions.

UA officials also say they have not had problems filling vacant positions and the school does not have a high turnover rate, indicating that it is paying competitively.

Congdon said students starting school this fall should not notice anything unusual because ACCFT are working without a contract.

''Management has had a strike plan since February,'' he said. ''We don't.''

The next negotiating sessions are set for Sept. 4-5.

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University of Alaska labor and employee relations:

Alaska Community Colleges' Federation of Teachers: 6644

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