A unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees on Thursday finally brought an end to a bitter dispute between the Faculty Union and the Board over a new collective bargaining agreement.
For more than two years, relations between the BOT and the Faculty Union have been at breaking point as negotiations for a new agreement stuttered.
But the mood was celebratory following the BOT’s ratification of the agreement at a regular board meeting, with both sides joking about the difficulties.
“We should really break out the champagne,” said USF president, Judy Genshaft. “This is a major accomplishment.”
Roy Weatherford, president of the Faculty Union, thanked the board for their civility throughout the negotiations.
“Any objective observer would have to say you’ve been far more polite to us than we’ve been to you. And we recognize that and we appreciate it,” he said. Weatherford also praised the role the faculty senate played when negotiations between the Union and the Board had stalled.
Negotiations began January 2003, when the old collective bargaining agreement expired and the Union had to deal directly with each university’s BOT in order to form a new one.
The new relationship did not get off to a good start with faculty complaining of not being consulted when the BOT decided to put in place 90-day emergency rules to replace the expired agreement. The decision went against the Union’s wish to extend the old agreement by six months, prompting Weatherford to say the BOT was “going to screw us.”
Genshaft later apologized to the faculty for the lack of consultation, but the dispute rumbled on.
As recently as August, agreement still seemed unlikely. Among the sticking points were summer pay, salary increases and merit-based raises.
The two sides finally reached a verbal agreement in October. Included in the contract is a 5 percent pool for salary increases, 4 percent of which is based on performance, the remainder to be awarded at the discretion of department chairs.
Under the agreement, faculty achieving satisfactory evaluations will receive a minimum two percent pay increase. In addition, Genshaft said most faculty will receive a $1,000 bonus.
The agreement also ensures that faculty teaching summer classes are paid at the same rate they receive during fall and spring.
BOT vice chair Rhea Law said both sides had made concessions.
“It took a lot of give and take on both sides,” she said. “This is moving us in the right direction.”
Weatherford said he hopes future disagreements can be solved by consultation rather than political confrontation. “This has been an exceptional period in the history of the Union,” he said.
“Out of the 33 years that there’s been a Union here, there’s only been some three of four years when there’s (been) a serious conflict between the Union and the administration.”