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One goal, different visions.

NEIU Faculties and Staff still without a contract, Board of Trustees of no help.

On March 11, 2011

The ongoing negotiations between the NEIU administration and NEIU faculty and staff union are entering their third year. There is still no agreement on many important issues and faculty and staff, as well as the students, are on edge because of this situation. Faculty members of the union bargaining team said that they were trying to be cooperative, and in the beginning of the negotiations they quickly reached a consensus on some articles.

After this consensus, it looks like the negotiations have hit a wall. Jill Althage, a librarian at NEIU said, "I thought they would be over years ago." She said that their biggest concern now is justice for all faculty and resource professionals. Althage explained that the administrative team thought if they complied with the faculty's demands and leave behind the instructors that would make things work. "We are really interested in everybody getting justice," said Althage.
Nancy Sreenan, linguistics instructor, added that NEIU instructors are the lowest paid statewide. "This is the problem that you have instructors that are the lowest paid anywhere in the state," said Sreenan. She also said that the administration team thinks they are offering a raise, when at the same time they are raising the workload, which doesn't make it a raise. "It is probably a recipe to eliminate jobs, certainly full time," said Sreenan. She said that it is hard to understand why the negotiations have been so ineffective, while the administration has negotiated contracts with other unions on campus without problems.
The board of trustees' public statement of complete confidence in President Hahs was also disturbing for faculty and staff. "I was disappointed of that," said Althage. This says that the Board of Trustees did not give the issues a thoughtful consideration, both Althage and Sreenan said. Deb Bernstein, justice studies professor and practicing attorney, agreed and said, "I think it's kind of foolish to be so lop-sided in their presentation that they completely support the president. I think the correct position would be they need to reflect on this." Bernstein said that their job is not to take one side or the other. "This is not the appropriate role," said Bernstein.
"The board statement would've indicated their desire to move the parties to different position and it doesn't indicate that," said Bernstein. "Throughout the negotiations process, the board has had, and continues to have, confidence in the vision and the leadership of the president of the university," is what part of the board of trustees statement says. According to this statement, the leadership of NEIU is fine and they trust it. Bernstein said that faculty and staff expected a stronger statement and recognition that there is a huge problem. Sreenan added that their response to the vote of no confidence, within an hour after, announcing their trust in the leadership of NEIU says that they don't care about what faculty and staff think. They added that the board's job is not to take president's side, but to ensure the smooth operation of the university.
"The board statement is an appropriate expression of their hopes for a successful conclusion [of the negotiations]," said Hahs. She said that it takes more than her to move the negotiations forward, because there are two teams who negotiate for changes in contracts with nearly forty articles."The biggest obstacle [in the negotiations] is emotion overshadowing accurate communication," said Hahs. Regarding the emotions, she added that student protests are fine. "I respect their support of out very fine faculty," said Hahs.
As far as her part in the negotiation process, Hahs stated that her guidance to the administrative team supports the need to reach a fair contract. "A contract that is predictable in workload and fiscally viable into the future in order to provide students a quality education for the long term," said Hahs.

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