FAIRBORN, Ohio (WDTN) – Wright State’s president issued a statement Thursday saying that the administration is willing to begin negotiating the terms of the faculty union’s 2020 contract.
President Cheryl B. Schrader says that the employment terms the Board of Trustees implemented on January 4 are still final and that they will remain in effect until the AAUP-WSU’s next contract is negotiated and approved.
She stressed that these employment terms were never meant to represent an offer or be seen as a bargaining position.
“Faculty members covered under these terms can report to work on January 22, or they can choose not to. It is their decision. However, the university has an obligation to provide our students with a high-quality education. We also have obligations to meet all state and federal higher education rules and regulations. These obligations are non-negotiable,” she says in the statement.
She goes on to say that “despite the clarity of our actions,” the AAUP-WSU is still insisting that the school come back to the bargaining table to re-negotiate a contract that expired in 2017.
“This is not possible because all negotiations for the contact that expired in 2017 ended once we reached impasse and exhausted all statutory processes. Our trustees enacted new terms and conditions to break the impasse,” she states.
However, she does say that the Board is willing to begin negotiations on the 2020 contract, and that if an agreement is reached, those terms can immediately go into effect.
Wright State’s general counsel, Larry Chan, sent an email to the AAUP-WSU’s chief negotiator, Rudy Fichtenbaum, detailing the Board’s willingness to start working on the next contract.
That email can be found below:
As a show of good faith on our part, we too would agree to return to the negotiating table to begin work on a successor agreement if the AAUP-WSU withdraws its ULP with prejudice. With the ULP withdrawn with prejudice, the university would have in place the type of necessary financial relief recommended by Fact-Finder Stanton to facilitate financial recovery. Beginning negotiations for a successor agreement with concessionary measures similar to the rest of our workforce would allow the university to immediately “roll up its sleeves” and work on the next contract.
As noted by the Trustees, it was necessary to move the university forward beyond the status quo of a contract that was put in place August 20, 2014 and expired June 30, 2017. Since the last contract was negotiated in 2014, the university has faced a financial crisis and countless unanticipated issues. Asking to return to the same contract negotiations that have failed to produce any AAUP-WSU agreement despite two years of bargaining encompassing over twenty formal meetings, despite the efforts of a mutually agreed upon federal mediator, and despite a separate fact-finder is either naïve or simply a strategic tactic by the AAUP-WSU.
It is necessary to negotiate our next contract, and not return yet again to a past contract that expired in 2017. The Trustees correctly determined the university could not maintain a status quo financial package and continue its expected level of public service to its students. We are ready and willing to immediately begin negotiations on a successor agreement under this understanding.
The faculty union takes issue with this response from the school.
As a gesture of good faith, the union offered to withdraw their Unfair Labor Practice charge if it meant a return to the negotiating table.
However, they say that withdrawing the ULP “with prejudice,” as requested in the email, would mean that they could never refile the charge. This is not an action the union wants to take, as they say the administration’s decision to implement the latest terms of employment without providing them with an opportunity to respond was a failure to bargain in good faith.
“Beginning negotiations on a successor agreement means they want us to simply accept their imposed contract that would run through June 2020,” says Fichtenbaum. “This means the starting point for negotiations would be the imposed contract; it would be the baseline for all future contracts. In return, the admin offers only to begin negotiating now rather than waiting until January 2020.”
Additionally, the union says that implementing the terms was not a necessity on the university’s part.
They say that the administration managed a $10 million surplus for fiscal year 2018 under the terms of the 2014-17 CBA, without making cuts to intercollegiate athletics or liquidating any real estate purchases made by Double Bowler.
“During the fact-finding hearing, Dr. Curtis McCray testified that he stopped all negotiations with AAUP in March of 2017 until Cheryl Schrader arrived in the summer. In fact, the administration put no new proposals on the table until January 2018, when fact-finding was about to begin – despite having formally agreed to put all its proposals on the table by April 7, 2017. It attended the parties’ meetings with the Federal Mediator without authorization to negotiate, thereby preventing any progress whatsoever. It imposed a contract featuring key provisions on which the parties had never negotiated,” Fichtenbaum says.
He continues, “We are going on strike beginning January 22. If we don’t, we will have taught the Trustees that they can indeed negotiate with us; and if they don’t like how that goes, they need only impose! But if we remain united, eventually the administration will be forced to bargain over the terms of our contract. The fact that the administration avoided fiscal watch and, in fact, ran a $10 million surplus while operating under our expired contract is de facto proof the imposed contract has nothing to do with the University’s finances. It is clear that the imposed contract greatly worsens our working conditions. That tells us that the Trustees are perfectly willing to diminish ‘our level of public service to [our] students.’ The same is clear from their plan to replace us with scabs who will take attendance (and presumably do little else).”