By Paul Mullin
Negotiators from the faculty union and the administration have agreed to extend the present contract indefinitely on one week’s notice, essentially making the bargaining process a week-to-week engagement.
This new set of circumstances means that “either party can end the extension of the contract by providing the other party one week’s notice of their intention to do so,” as stated on www.rideraaup.org.
“If we said that we were giving them notice, that would mean that at the end of that notice we are intending to go on strike,” said Dr. Jeff Halpern, the union’s chief negotiator.
Both sides also agreed to increase the weekly bargaining sessions to two days a week in an effort to speed up the negotiation process.
“One of the problems is that I have to consider the ability of my team to do that and teach a full [course] load and take care of family obligations,” Halpern said. “There is a limit to the ability of people on the team to keep up this pace.”
This new agreement helped the two sides narrowly avoid a possible strike on Monday, Oct. 1 during a fruitful negotiating session the Friday before, where the parties made progress toward an agreement on another article and the administration withdrew several of its proposals.
“We felt we wanted to focus on some key articles under discussion at the time,” said Dr. Don Steven, provost and vice president of academic affairs. “We recognize our responsibility to continue to make progress in a timely manner.”
According to Steven, the administration did not feel that the withdrawn proposals were a hindrance to progress at the table, but were simply “less important at this point in time.”
The vote to authorize a strike was made on Sept. 18, and along with the ability to call for a work stoppage, the union leadership was granted by its members the options of stopping all uncompensated work and conducting informational picketing — two pre-emptive alternatives to striking that would serve to put pressure on the administration to come to an agreement.
“I don’t think the University wants to see a picket line out front on an open house day, which is a possibility even without a strike,” Halpern said. “The knowledge that the University has that we can do that, I think has had a positive impact [on the negotiations].”