After months of negotiations, picketing, legal fights and sit-ins, the Ferris Faculty Association (FFA) decided to hold a vote on whether to ratify the latest contract proposal from the university.
The tentative agreement is a five-year contract includes a $1,841 increase to base salary upon ratification for 2018-19, a 2 percent salary increase for the first three years and a 2.25 percent increase for the next two years. The FFA was also given the Supplemental Market Adjustment (SMA) of $300,000 each year in this deal, along with the agreement to reset to the state caps for health care contributions the first and fourth years.
“Well, number one it’s a relief because for the good of the university, we needed to come to some resolution,” FFA President and Physical Sciences Professor Charles Bacon said. “The general tenor is positive, regardless of one or two people, so my main concern is that we have properly represented our faculty. The hallmark of any agreement is that both sides are equally dissatisfied. Did we get all we wanted? No. Did they? No.”
The FFA held a vote Wednesday, Nov. 7, continuing through Thursday, Nov. 8, to approve the contract for around 450 faculty members. If the agreement is ratified, the Ferris administration will be notified Friday, Nov. 9, and the proposal will go to the Board of Trustees for approval.
“I refuse to call it a good offer because we’ve had better, but it’s reasonable,” Ferris Mathematics Professor Holly Price said, who is on the FFA negotiating team.
Contract negotiations began May 25 of this year, lasting nearly six months. Faculty members went on strike Aug. 27, the first day of classes, but were ordered back into classrooms the next day by a temporary restraining order. As a result, around 450 faculty members taught the majority of the fall semester without a contract in place.
“It upsets me because it tarnishes Ferris’ reputation when you don’t try to work together, and I think when you try to get outsiders to work out issues of contracts, it shows that there is dissension and it shouldn’t be that way,” Ferris Criminal Justice Professor Nancy Hogan said. “I’m pleased that we got what we did but I think that based on what I see and what I’m expected to do, then it’s less than what we deserve.”
Bacon said that the faculty are reasonable people and the length of the negotiation process was excessive.
“Honestly, it was unnecessary. We have people whose jobs it is—who are paid—to handle labor relations, who know their jobs, that we work with every week on things, that we have good relationships with. It was unnecessary to make this a contentious process by bringing in an outside lawyer,” Bacon said. “I’m totally serious when I say I could have sat down with Steve Stratton, who is the labor relations director, in one day and gotten this done.”
At the FFA general assembly meeting Wednesday, Nov. 7, the negotiations team made it clear that they were not fully satisfied with this agreement, but considered it to be reasonable with a couple big wins, including the SMA fund and the agreement to reset healthcare contributions to state caps to match inflation in the first and fourth years of the contract.
Price said she thinks the FFA will ratify the contract.
“Personally, I hope it’s not a strong yes because you don’t want to send that message, ‘Oh, thank you for the minimal cuts.’ Because there are cuts but…we’re going to get the healthcare fixed for the two-person and I consider that a big win,” Price said.
President Eisler and Ferris Communications Officer Michelle Rasmussen were not immediately available to comment on the tentative agreement.