by Jordyn Haime, Staff Writer
The University of New Hampshire Lecturer’s Union, a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (UNHLU-AAUP), has been in negotiations for a new bargaining agreement with UNH for nearly two years.
Major issues of disagreement between the two parties have been job security and compensation.
For lecturers, job security has been the top priority, said Catherine Moran, president and lead negotiator for the UNHLU.
“We feel like we’ve given them a range of proposals that would simultaneously allow for flexibility for the administration and stability for us…there are a number of different ways this could be achieved,” Moran said.
One way of achieving this that would be best for the university, the lecturers, and the students, Moran said, is “an expectation of a continuing term of employment, particularly after you’ve proven yourself,” rather than an unexpected non-renewal of contract, similar to what happened to lecturers in the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) when 17 of them received contract non-renewal letters in late January of last year. Some of the lecturers who were not renewed had been at UNH for more than 10 years.
Since then, six of those lecturers have filed discrimination complaints against UNH with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights on the basis of age. The investigation is ongoing, but UNH has said that there was no discrimination involved in the decision to non-renew lecturers.
John Wallin, lead negotiator for the university and assistant provost for contract administration, said he could not give details on the discussions held in mediation due to confidentiality purposes.
Negotiations began in January 2017, a few months before the contract would expire in June of that year. That means UNH lecturers have been working off the provisions of the expired contract for over a year, and because it has not been updated, they are not eligible for pay raises, Moran said.
The union and the university officially declared impasse on December 6, 2017, exactly one year ago Thursday, and proceeded to the second stage of contract negotiations: mediation, in which a neutral party mediates discussions with the two groups individually with the end goal of reaching a resolution.
A pair of mediation sessions were held in May, followed by another two throughout the summer without immediate success. The two negotiating teams have continued to meet without the presence of a mediator this fall, according to Moran and Wallin.
“We (the union) felt like the work with the mediator was diminishing in its role,” Moran said. “The mediator did help us clarify some places where we were very far apart and seeing things quite differently. So, the two teams then decided that we would have some meetings and had some dialogues without the mediator.”
“Negotiating a collective bargaining agreement is rightly a long process undertaken in good faith to ensure that the agreement reached can be ratified by both parties and provides ample time to address both parties’ concerns,” Wallin wrote in an email correspondence. “I cannot speak for UNHLU, but our team believes we continue to make good progress towards a contract both parties can ratify.”
Wallin was not available for a phone or in-person interview. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Wayne Jones – who has been involved with the process and has been in touch with both parties – did not respond in time for publication as he was traveling at the time.
It’s not uncommon for the bargaining process to be lengthy, Wallin said, citing previous contract cycles between UNH and the tenure faculty union, the AAUP. According to articles in The New Hampshire’s archives, the AAUP was in contract negotiations with the university for nearly two years, from July 1995 to April 1997.
Moran hopes to get another contract proposal from the university before winter break, she said, and Wallin noted that he will meet with Moran next Monday “to update each other on the status of our positions.”
State labor law mandates that “mediation shall continue as long as the board determines mediation is necessary considering the likelihood of resolution.” If successful progress is not made soon, the parties could turn to fact-finding, the third and final stage in bargaining, which could revert back again to the first phase, good faith negotiations, and begin the bargaining process all over again.
Moving to that final stage will depend on the university’s next contract proposal, Moran said, and she hopes it will be a successful one.
“It sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I mean it very seriously – I would love nothing more than to be spending some time before spring semester hammering out a contract, a fair, reasonable contract, that we can bring to our membership…but I mean, who knows,” Moran said.
Jordyn Haime can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordynHaime.