Outcome could affect Kenai Peninsula College faculty

Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2003

About 25 Kenai Peninsula College faculty members are among the 300 members of the Alaska Community College Federation of Teachers considering strike ballots this week.

The union, which has been in contract negotiations with the University of Alaska for more than a year, represents most of the faculty at KPC, said Dayne Clark, the KPC union representative.

KPC is an extension campus affiliated with the University of Alaska Anchorage.

"What we're trying to do is negotiate a contract," said Clark, a business and accounting professor.

"We haven't been very successful working with the university over the last 13 months."

Clark said the slow pace of negotiations are frustrating for KPC faculty, especially since their last contract, negotiated three years ago, took only two days to complete.

"This time around, we've been at it 13 months, and we've only got five areas out of 12 areas tentatively agreed to," he said.

Among the primary issues facing negotiating teams are disagreements over academic freedom rights, intellectual property rights, grievance procedures and salaries and health care, Clark said.

He explained that the university is trying to grant administrative staff more control over textbooks used in classes, taking power away from professors.

"That means an administrative person, with no knowledge of the particular discipline, has the right to say yes or no to a textbook," he said. "That's an attack on democracy itself ... what people are free to say and teach."

He said the university also is trying to take some intellectual property rights, which usually are in both the board of regents' policy and employee contracts, out of the contracts.

And, he said, employees were asked to agree to a health care plan that wasn't in writing.

"They couldn't tell us what it was," Clark said. "We don't know what we were supposed to be adopting."

Salaries also are a point of dispute.

"New professors with less experience are being hired at higher rates of pay than professors who have been here longer and have more experience," Clark said.

"The other thing, in terms of salary issues, we were looking at some studies and found the average administrative salary has gone up 5 percent per year in the last five years. Faculty salaries have only increased 2.6 percent over the last five years."

Clark said KPC faculty though only a small fraction of those represented by the union are supporting the union's actions.

"Most of them who have been around more than three years are kind of discouraged by the pro-cess," he said. "And most feel strongly on some of the issues, especially academic freedom and intellectual property rights."

He said he believes the union membership, including those at KPC, will vote in support of a strike.

But, he said, that does not mean employees immediately will stop working.

He said the union is hoping that if employees show their willingness to strike, the university will be forced to take negotiations more seriously.

"Over the past 27 years I've been here, several times after we've taken a strike vote, negotiations have started moving and within a week or two were finished without going on strike," Clark said.

He added that in his years of experience, faculty members have only gone on strike twice, once in 1974 and again in 1976.

If the KPC faculty were to strike, it would probably shut down about 100 classes at the college.

But, he said, "None of the faculty wants to go on strike. That's not their nature.

"I don't know anybody who really likes going on strike."

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