'U,' LEO begin new contract negotiations

BY DARRYN FITZGERALD
Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 21, 2010

University administrators and the union that represents lecturers at the University will begin negotiating a new three-year contract for lecturers today.

This year’s negotiations mark the third collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Lecturer's Employee Organization — which represents about 1,500 full and part-time faculty members — and the University. LEO hopes to draft a new contract that will include pay increases, better health benefits and more job security for lecturers.

The semester-long negotiations will start today with opening statements from both LEO officials and University administrators.

In recent interviews, representatives from both sides said the talks will address contractual issues similar to those discussed in the past.

“The expectations of the University are not any different than past negotiations,” said Jeffery Frumkin, associate vice provost and senior director of academic human resources.

Joseph Walls — a lecturer of Business Information Technology and media liaison for LEO — said despite the recession, members of LEO’s bargaining committee hope to get higher salaries written into this year’s contract.

“We are going to ask for salary increases,” Walls said. “We feel it is feasible for us to do that despite the circumstances.”

Lecturers represent roughly 30 percent of the faculty at the University’s Ann Arbor campus, but their salaries account for 1 percent of the total Ann Arbor campus budget, according to an LEO press release given to The Michigan Daily earlier this week.

LEO President Bonnie Halloran wrote in the press release that pay raises for lecturers are sorely overdue.

“We know that these are tough economic times, but our members have been underpaid and undervalued for years,” Halloran wrote.

Though Frumkin didn’t say the University's position on pay raises for lecturers, he said the contract needs to reflect a respect for the University’s financial resources.

“The University hopes to achieve a successful contract that is seen as both fair and equitable by union members and delivers out of the University’s academic mission,” Frumkin said.

Ian Robinson, a lecturer in sociology and a member of the LEO’s bargaining committee, wrote in the press release that faculty salaries account for about 9 percent of University expenditures, compared to the lecturers’ 1 percent.

“Our salaries aren’t driving up undergraduate tuition; other, higher priority concerns are doing that,” Robinson wrote. “The administration must start treating lecturers – most of whom specialize in teaching undergrads – as first-class faculty, and undergraduate education as a top priority."

LEO also hopes to improve their health benefits through this year’s negotiations, and plans to challenge the University’s initiative to increase the cost of benefits for part-time lecturers, noting that part-time lecturers work less and make less money, making the cost of health benefits more of a burden.

“We’re going to resist that pretty strongly,” Walls said.

Negotiation meetings are scheduled for every Friday from today through the end of the semester. Though past negotiations have carried on through the summer, officials on both sides say they are determined to end this year’s collective bargaining process by the end of April.