Members of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine System, the union representing system faculty members, announced plans to assemble today around 12:30 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine’s Glickman Library in protest of the group’s contract status.
Association members say they’re working without a contract and the latest proposal from the administration is “unreasonable,” offering .5 percent wage increases in each of the pact’s two years after the previous contract included no such raises.
The demonstration coincides roughly with the start of a meeting of the university system board of trustees at the library. On the agenda at the meeting is a closed door session of the board’s Human Resources and Labor Relations Committee, which is slated to discuss collective bargaining in executive session.
Faculty union vice president Matthew Killmeier argued in a statement that the system has the money to pay its instructors better, and the current contract impasse is largely due to disagreements over wages:
The system’s sitting on a pile of money, but they’re telling students, staff, and teachers to eat crumbs.
In the association announcement released in advance of today’s demonstration, the group laid out its financial argument:
The latest [system financial] figures, released last week, indicate an $80.1 million surplus from last fiscal year on top of the $44 million increase in unrestricted net assets from the previous year. … In the last 10 years the number of faculty and support staff has shrunk, resulting in increasing workloads and class sizes. A new faculty member hired in 2001 has received contractually-bargained raises that fall 3 percent short of the rate of inflation. At the same time, health insurance premiums have increased 178 percent.
The contract conversation comes as the University of Maine system, along with other Maine higher education institutions, is staring down a collective $6.8 million in proposed cuts as state lawmakers look at ways to balance the budget. And escalating payroll numbers squeeze the system in the opposite direction, although this short story posted here doesn’t split up which system employees (administrators, support staff, faculty, athletic trainers, etc.) are driving those payroll escalations. The association is arguing those hikes aren’t coming from any contractual wage increases benefiting them.