The Ferris Faculty Association held their “Critical Updates on Negotiations” meeting to discuss issues associated with achieving a new contract.
The FFA is an affiliated unit of the Michigan and National Education Associations that consists of both faculty and staff members, including the university’s administration.
Professor in manufacturing & engineering technology and president of the Ferris Faculty Association James Rumpf said the meeting was “primarily an update.” He said the goal of the FFA and the administration is to have a contract in place by the end of the spring 2010 semester.
Three years ago, the FFA was facing a similar situation that nearly resulted in a strike among faculty. In order to avoid a similar situation, members are “trying not to wait too long” to propose a contract at the very last minute, said Rumpf.
According to Rumpf, a strike is the last resort. The FFA Negotiating Team and other faculty/staff members are trying to avoid a situation similar to what happened three years ago. In the last contract renewal situation, a new contract was voted on at a late deadline, just prior to the start of classes in the fall of 2006.
Rumpf said the impact [of a new contract] on the students should be minimal, if even noticed at all.
Marc Sheehan, communications officer, said most students are probably aware that the university’s administration and FFA are negotiating a new contract that will take effect after the current agreement expires on June 30.
“I believe that the sessions to this point have been productive and business-like, which should be to the benefit of everyone involved,” said Sheehan of the meetings.
“If you’re running a class, really the only thing that would be impacted would be the classes at the start of fall,” said Rumpf. He added the overall concern of the FFA is to get a good contract made for the faculty.
“A good contract for faculty is good for the students, too,” said Rumpf.
Sheehan said building on the tenor of the negotiations thus far should help bring the talks to a conclusion that is successful, timely and seamless as it effects Ferris students.
The Negotiating Team is made up of members in the FFA. Some members of the team are more optimistic than others about having everything done before the deadline, said Rumpf.
The budget meeting by Ferris State President David Eisler was a topic of discussion as well.
Committee meetings have been held to discuss concerns and problems. Some of the topics include health care, human resources and wellness programs. Rumpf said varying degrees of progress have been made in those areas. Promotions, merit increases, summer scheduling and compensation are areas of concern as well.
Sheehan said the talks started well before the beginning of this semester to help facilitate a successful conclusion before the end of the current contract.
“As with most bargaining agreements, there are many different concerns that are being addressed – among them wages and healthcare,” said Sheehan
Sheehan also said, “Together, the two negotiating teams are working to find areas in agreement on both major and secondary issues.”
Data gathering is the current stage in the process. Rumpf said he and other members are trying to take care of things one issue at a time.
“Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind at this point is that the two negotiating teams have committed in advance to conducting the negotiations in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” said Sheehan. “I believe that this is indeed what has happened to this point.”
Rumpf anticipates at least one or two more general membership meetings this semester, including “a few” in March and “a lot” in April. However, they are trying to find earlier dates to hold the meetings as the goal is to reach an agreement by the end of April, “even by spring break if possible,” said Rumpf.
Tentative dates have not yet been made for those meetings.
General membership meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend, including students who are more than welcome if they have comments or concerns. Any kind of forum is publicized.
“The university administration is committed to doing the hard work necessary to reach an agreement by the end of the semester, and I believe that same commitment exists on the part of the FFA Negotiating Team,” said Sheehan.
“Eventually, an agreement will be reached,” said Rumpf, adding, “When? We really can’t say.”