The state’s consistently declining support of higher education forced Western Illinois University and its faculty union to rework their current contract.
The pact for University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 was supposed to continue until June 30, 2015. Instead, it will end one year earlier, which means the 4% pay raise that had been agreed to for the final year won’t be given.
The contract will be replaced by a new three-year pact that begins July 1, 2014.
“What this contact does is it looks at that last year, expands the contract by two additional years, takes the 4% (and) spreads it out, and adds a little more of an increase over the time period,” said Chapter President John Miller.
“This was not easy to do. But we (UPI) did this because of our belief in this institution and the needs of the students, the university, the community, and ourselves.”
He said the American Federation of Teachers helped the chapter analyze the university’s budget.
Miller said it’s difficult to guarantee whether the agreement will prevent furloughs, given the uncertainty of state funding. But he added, “What this does is, according to the institution – and knowing what they’ve talked about in some of their hearings what some of their cuts were going to be – this will alleviate a lot of those immediate cuts. It should decrease those challenges.”
Miller said the deal is still just an agreement in principle. He said there remains contract language to be worked out.
He also said the state deserves blame for WIU’s financial woes.
“It amazes me sometimes that in this state we can talk about coming up with $25 million to relocate a handful of (ADM) executives from one part of the state to the next, but we can’t come up with funding for universities.”
Miller said UPI will push the administration, students, and the community to fight for the funding needed for higher education – including community colleges. He said higher education can drive the economy and thus the future of the state is at stake.
“If we continue to cut those funds and harm that system, we’re going to start harming the ability of the state to attract employers, maintain the current employers that we have, and grow new businesses,” Miller said.
“If the state (continues) to harm this job creation system, the state is going to continue to find itself in trouble. This is really a big economic issue for this state.”
He said other universities will also be involved in the effort.
Miller said Western’s UPI chapter represents around 750 employees, including all tenure/tenure track employees, associate faculty, academic support professionals, and a few civil service employees.
Miller said membership meetings will be held Thursday, November 7 in the Quad Cities and Friday, November 8 in Macomb to explain the agreement. Details will also be sent to members via mail and e-mail.
Miller said UPI members will be asked to vote late next month to end the current contract on June 30, 2014 and put the new agreement in place.
WIU President Jack Thomas was not available for comment about the agreement.