By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 27, 2013
How are the Lecturers' Employee Organization's contract negotiations going? It depends who you ask.
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On Tuesday night Sociology lecturer Ian Robinson spoke at the Central Student Government assembly meeting encouraging representatives to pass a resolution in support of the LEO as it tries to finalize its contract with the University on Friday.
Robinson — a member of LEO’s bargaining team — said he attended the meeting in the midst of faltering contract negotiations between the University and LEO, which represents about 1,500 lecturers at the three University of Michigan campuses. The union's current contract expires in April.
Robinson said LEO has made increasing the salaries of lecturers the “centerpiece” of its negotiations this year, but the University has not been discussing the issue.
“At a certain point in the process, about three weeks ago … (the University) basically said, ‘Well, we’re not interested in talking any further about this,’” he said after the meeting.
Raising lecturers’ salaries is an issue that LEO has dubbed “equal pay for equal work,” and Robinson has authored a 57-page report on the issue that argues in part that tenure-track faculty, like assistant professors, make considerably more money than lecturers teaching students.
“Basically they’re saying … this is a straight market transaction," Robinson said. “I just felt that’s unacceptable and so in that sense, (negotiations are) going very badly.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, however, said negotiations have been progressing, and did not allude to any major disagreements.
“The negotiations are continuing. The bargaining teams have been meeting generally weekly since starting talks in November,” he said. “My understanding is they’re making good progress”
Fitzgerald stressed that the negotiations are best left for the negotiators.
“It’s our approach that it’s important that negotiations take place at the bargaining table,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s really important that we honor that process and not talk about what may be proposed or what may be discussed outside the bargaining table.”
According to Robinson, LEO wants to have a contract hammered out at least two weeks before the new restrictions on unions take effect in Michigan on March 25 because members must wait two weeks to vote on a contract.
A resolution proposed Tuesday night in support of “equal pay for equal work” was stalled on the floor of the CSG assembly and won’t be voted on until at least March 12 — the next time the assembly meets.
Resolutions require two reads before they can be passed. The second read of a resolution is held at a later meeting, and a motion that the resolution be put on its second read that same meeting — which requires two-thirds support of the assembly — did not pass.
Robinson said he felt the administration held the opinion of CSG in high esteem and having the support of the assembly could only have helped LEO’s cause.
“Central Student Government, as the representative body of U of M students, could have spoken with some authority about how students feel so, I think that would have influenced the administration,” he said.
He added that had he known the procedures of CSG, he would have submitted the resolution earlier.
Rackham representative Patrick O’Mahen, a member of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, was frustrated by the delay. While he noted that just because students voted against a second read, that didn’t mean that the assembly did not support the resolution. Still, he noted that the time-sensitive nature of the resolution would have made a vote worthwhile.
The resolution drew a fair amount of discussion from the assembly and multiple representatives said they weren’t comfortable voting on a resolution they had just read.
Still, even CSG President Manish Parikh — despite not having a vote in the assembly — weighed in on the issue, arguing that a second read should be held. He said he trusted the judgment of O’Mahen and Rackham representative Ben Alterman — two of the most vocal proponents of the resolution.