Contract talks come to last-minute deal; ratification process to begin next week
By Casey Gale
While students were holding their breath last weekend awaiting news of a faculty strike (and possible time off from classes), administrators and union leaders were locked in three days of negotiations. But after four months of hard bargaining, the administration and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reached a tentative contract agreement mid-afternoon on Oct. 5.
Once the AAUP and the University Board of Trustees ratify the agreement, the contract will be binding. The AAUP ratification meeting will take place on Oct. 14, where Dr. Jeffrey Halpern, AAUP chief negotiator, will present union members with a summary of the new contract.
While both parties admitted to making concessions in the negotiating process, they said they were content with the resolution.
“We’ve been involved in many negotiations, and both sides never accomplish everything they set out to,” said Robert Stoto, associate vice president for human resources and affirmative action, who headed the administration’s negotiating team. “But I think we’re satisfied, and both sides achieved the important things.”
Halpern said that even with some compromises made, he expects that union members will approve the agreement.
“We reached as good an agreement as you could without a strike,” he said. “It’s a good enough agreement to recommend, and I think once everybody sees it, I expect we’ll have most people voting that way.”
If the union members do not approve the agreement, it would be treated as a strike vote. But according to Halpern, no one should expect a strike to happen.
Provost DonnaJean Freeden said that in her experience, most negotiations have not been as respectful as this one. Freeden said the administration and faculty left the negotiations on good terms.
“I work with the faculty on a daily basis,” she said. “I think the relationship is good and healthy.”
If union members approve the contract summary, it will be sent to the Board of Trustees for ratification. Then, a new contract will be written and signed.
In an email to union members on Oct. 2, President Mordechai Rozanski expressed a desire to end discussions before a work stoppage impacted campus life.
“I believe that we all recognize that a strike will have negative consequences for faculty, staff, administrators, and, most importantly, our students,” he said.
Signals were mixed throughout the weekend of Oct. 4, and an agreement appeared unlikely. On Saturday, the Rider AAUP website posted that “the parties are still far apart.” By 3:15 p.m. the next day, however, negotiations had come to a close.
Though it meant going to class as scheduled, students seemed pleased to continue getting their money’s worth at Rider.
“It was certainly surprising to know that a strike could happen here,” said Isabella Santa Maria, a sophomore English-writing major. “I felt a bit indifferent about the situation. I was, however, more concerned about the consequences of the strike that would involve the students. I knew that some students were complaining that we should be getting the education that we paid for, and that it would slow everyone down.”
Though the administration admitted that they would have liked to finish before the contract ended on Aug. 31, the complexities of the negotiations made it impossible to take any shortcuts, Stoto said.
Santa Maria said that she is glad the conflict between the two parties is over.
“I think what matters most is that the administration and the union were able to reach an agreement,” she said.
Neither side wanted to reveal any details of the talks or compromises made during negotitations until the written summary is prepared.
Details of the agreement will be provided in next week’s issue of The Rider News after ratification.