A deal to end the faculty union strike at Wright State University could be on the horizon but both sides are reluctant to say when they expect one to be made official.
Negotiators for the administration and Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors are meeting Monday night to begin hammering out a potential agreement that eluded the two sides for nearly two years. Monday’s gathering marks the first time the administration and AAUP-WSU has negotiated.
Members from the administration and the Wright State Chapter of the American Association of University Professors met for more than three hours Sunday following a hearing before the State Employment Relations Board over the legitimacy of the strike. SERB sided with the union, allowing the strike to go on.
WSU president: strike ‘testing everyone’s patience’
“I was encouraged by the progress made last night and look forward to continuing negotiations with the union,” Wright State president Cheryl Schrader said in a prepared statement. “We value our faculty and want them back in the classroom as soon as possible.”
Schrader said she knows the current “uncertain times are testing everyone’s patience” but thanked the campus community for its support over the last week or so. AAUP-WSU members have been on strike since Jan. 22 and have been picketing outside entrances to campus along Colonel Glenn Highway.
Union leader: Deal will come ‘sooner rather than later’
Sunday evening’s meeting was productive and would likely lead to some sort of deal being hashed out during the Monday negotiating session or within the next few days, said Martin Kich, AAUP-WSU president. Kich said an agreement will likely come “sooner rather than later,” though he was hesitant to make a more specific prediction.
“We kind of worked out a framework that would facilitate negotiations,” Kich said. “I think everybody’s making an effort to bring it to a close as quickly as possible.”
Trustees to meet Tuesday
Wright State’s board of trustees is scheduled to discuss negotiations in a 5:30 p.m. closed-door meeting Tuesday, according to the school. The board must vote on any agreement in order for it to be implemented.
Doug Fecher, chairman of the WSU board said it was “too early to tell” if Monday evening’s negotiations would lead to a deal this week.
“I can say the discussions were good but I was the only board mummer in the room,” Fecher said. “They were just discussions and I need to report them back to the board.”
When asked if he thought the strike could end sometime this week Fecher replied “I sure hope so.”
The strike was the union’s response to the WSU board of trustees decision on Jan. 4 to implement the final terms of employment for the union.
The terms included moving faculty union members into a “uniform” health care plan, maintaining current rules of retrenchment, including no pay raises and allowing faculty to be furloughed as part of “cost savings days.” The union has taken issue with the furlough policy, changes to health care, new provisions for promotions and tenure appointment, workload and a merit pay system.
Some credit Higher Education chancellor for restarting negotiations
Local leaders on Monday credited Ohio Higher Education chancellor Randy Gardner with bringing both sides back to the table to find a resolution. Kich said Gardner made a “great effort” to facilitate a meeting between the two sides.
Gardner said he received several phone calls about the strike through Monday and that in a situation like Wright State’s “students must be everyone’s priority.”
Gardner said it was not the department’s role to lead negotiations but that encouraging each side to come together was the appropriate thing to do. Gardner is optimistic that an agreement could be reached in the coming days and he’s hopeful each side will “work together to take every step possible to end the strike.”
“We thought it was important to at least encourage, listen and express how important we believe this week is at Wright State,” Gardner said.
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