State of faculty union relations following settlement

FFA and administrative leaders speak on settlement and future contract

Two weeks after the Ferris Faculty Association and the university reached an $800,000 settlement, focus shifts to contract discussions for the next collective bargaining agreement.

The FFA’s current contract went into effect in November of 2018 and expires on June 23 of this year. Both union leaders and administrators have expressed the desire to complete current contract negotiations without repeating 2018’s history. Five years ago, FFA members went on strike during the first week of the fall semester following months of disagreements.

Provost Bobby Fleischman is pleased with the settlement on online course capacity from an academic standpoint. He stated that it will offer an opportunity to “revisit online education,” bringing Ferris “into alignment with what other universities are doing.” He also sees it as a step forward for all of the Ferris community, including faculty, staff and students.

“On both sides of the aisle, [the settlement] is sign of good faith,” Fleischman said. “It’s an illustration of how faculty and administration can work together and have positive outcomes. I’m very hopeful that that sort of collaboration carries over to contract negotiations.”

On behalf of the administration, Associate Provost of Faculty Operations Steven Reifert meets with the FFA for matters pertaining to grievances and settlements.

“I think we’re where we need to be and glad we came to an agreement,” Reifert said.

While Reifert called recent discussions “collegial” and “agreeable,” FFA Vice President John Caserta was less than pleased and views the settlement as a “Band-Aid.”

“It was the most arduous process I’ve been involved in in my 42 years here,” Caserta said.

President Bill Pink is not present for contract discussions or settlement meetings, as has been his choice throughout his entire administrative career. To stay informed, he does meet with both administrators and union leaders separately for periodic updates.

“I have been pleased to hear that the conversations are already happening between some of our folks on the administration side and the union side,” Pink said about contract discussions. “I’ve been pleased to hear that those conversations have been progressing well. I would hope that we can continue to do that.”

He hopes to see a a positive trend in relationship building between the administration and every union on Ferris’ campus. He expressed his commitment to this relationship building, and to work through civil differences in a “much better” way than he has heard and seen before.

“I’m a believer that we need to show a better example to our students of what connection, collaboration and relationship needs to look like,” Pink said. “The negotiation is important, yes, but what we do after that is just as important to me… We have to build better relationships between the both of us because the folks who benefit from that are students. That has to be the case. If not, shame on us. Us being all of us.”

The Torch will continue its coverage on contract discussion throughout the spring semester.