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Union leader accuses USF of ‘breaking law’

Financial concerns dominated much of the agenda at the monthly faculty senate meeting Thursday, during which accusations of broken laws were leveled and the recently released Pappas report was recognized.

Roy Weatherford, philosophy professor and president of the USF chapter of United Faculty of Florida (UFF), leveled charges against USF administration of breaking labor laws during the protracted collective bargaining agreement debate.

“The collective bargaining law says that nobody’s terms and conditions of employment can be changed without first negotiating a contract and (the administration) has not negotiated a contract,” Weatherford said after the faculty senate meeting, “but they have changed some people’s situations by giving them illegal raises.”

According to Weatherford, administrators violated Florida State Statute 447, which states “the bargaining agent for the organization and the chief executive officer of the appropriate public employer or employers, jointly, shall bargain collectively in the determination of wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment of the public employees within the bargaining unit.”

The “raises” to which Weatherford referred were in the form of awards presented for outstanding achievement. Awards, which, according to Vice Provost Dwayne Smith, were not meant to be paid while contract negotiations were still open. Of the 16 members of faculty recognized, only three received awards.

“Since we’re in negotiation this year we were unable, at the awards banquet, to give out those awards,” Smith said after the meeting. “We discovered after the fact that, because of a miscommunication with payroll, three individuals were given their awards.

According to Smith, the University did not break the law and sought the approval of UFF before presenting the Honors awards. UFF refused to allow the University to give the customary $2,000 monetary awards to the recipients.

He added that administrators were forced into an awkward position when they asked for the award money back.

“They could return (the money) to us as a whole or we could set up a payment plan for them. It is my understanding that, that’s been set up,” Smith said.

According to Weatherford, part of the problem is that the negotiations have progressed at such a slow pace.

“This is the first time we have ever had this problem,” he said, “because this is the first time negotiations have gone on so long.”

Weatherford said that UFF had never considered pressing charges.

“We just got pissed off when they did something wrong, then blamed us for it,” Weatherford said.

Finance remained a theme in the meeting as Smith presented a study released by the American Association of University Professors concerning the gender gap in university salary percentages.

According to the study, USF is ranked No.1 in the percentage of female full-time faculty among its national peers – as established by the Carnegie Foundation – and the separate category of Florida research universities.

However, USF ranks sixth among its peers and fifth among Florida research universities in the field of female salary percentage as compared to the average.

According to Smith, this disparity lies in positions that females tend to hold at the University. A larger percentage of females work in lower-paying fields such as foreign language, and a smaller percentage work in higher-paying fields such as engineering.

USF President Judy Genshaft addressed the gathered faculty senators, briefly touching on the report released by the Pappas Consulting Group Inc., which she said could have a major impact on USF.

The report was especially critical of the Florida research universities for not placing enough emphasis on undergraduate education. It also suggested shifting the basis for funding from the number of full-time enrollment to graduation rates, which Genshaft said could impact a metropolitan university such as USF.

Opinion Editor Jordan Capobianco contributed to this report.