Faculty contract moves to vote, no strike in sight

Union schedules decision on new collective bargaining agreement

In the last weeks leading up to fall semester, the Ferris Faculty Association and members of the administration are in the closing stages of contract negotiation.

According to Dr. Charles Bacon, physical science professor and FFA president, union members will decide whether to ratify the new contract following a general membership meeting on Aug. 24.

Bacon offered no other comment on behalf of the FFA while the ratification process is still ongoing. The previous collective bargaining agreement was in effect from Nov. 13, 2018 through June 30, 2023. Associate Provost Dr. Steve Reifert previously expressed the desire to settle the new contract before the June expiration date. Despite this, Reifert is pleased with this year’s contract cycle.

“I’m very complimentary of [the FFA’s] team: Dr. Bacon, Professor [John] Caserta, and Jenice Winowiecki,” Reifert said. “I don’t want you to think there weren’t disagreements, because there’s always disagreements. But we were able to put our heads together and come up with a good agreement.”

Caserta, English professor and FFA vice president, also declined to comment on this ongoing story.

For the first time in 20 years, the FFA and administration have reached the contract ratification stage without the presence of outside attorneys or moving to mediation.

Members of the Ferris Faculty Association strike during the first week of the 2018 fall semester in the last contract negotiation cycle. Photo from Torch archives

“The union president and myself are committed to doing it this way,” Reifert said. “It was arduous. It was difficult. It was contentious sometimes, but we were just starting to do this the way we wanted to do it. We didn’t want outside influence.”

Contract discussions and negotiations started early in the spring semester for this cycle, months before the 2018 discussions. Reifert believes this helped both parties reach an agreement on language changes that were two to three contract cycles in the making.

“There’s no intention to strike. There’s no intention of walkouts. We’re looking at a smooth start to this semester,” Reifert said. While the current agreement is tentative, Reifert stated that changes in this year’s contract range from wage increases and healthcare coverage to promotion and merit.

It has been five years since the FFA went on strike in 2018, protesting their treatment during contract discussions and the leadership style of former university president David Eisler. Both union members and administrators expressed the desire to avoid a strike in 2023, as it interrupts students’ time in the classroom.

Though he was not present for contract negotiation meetings, current university president Dr. Bill Pink respects the teamwork that went into this year’s contract. The president’s office provided the following comment on the state of the collective bargaining agreement:

“As a university, we will never reach our full potential if we cannot work together in a collaborative, productive manner. I am thankful to the leadership of the Ferris Faculty Association and our administrative team for their great work in getting this done. I commend the FFA leadership for suggesting we start this work earlier than previous years. That helped provide more time for addressing contractual issues aside from compensation. I will continue to meet with the FFA leadership, as well as our other bargaining groups, throughout the year with the goal of constant dialogue and relationship building while we are not at the bargaining table.”

The Torch will continue coverage on this year’s collective bargaining agreement cycle as the story