UNI faculty will see 3.5% salary increase - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI faculty will see 3.5% salary increase

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- University of Northern Iowa faculty will see a 3.5% increase in pay in 2011 and 2012. That decision coming after six months of bargaining between UNI and the United Faculty union.

The Board of Regents had offered a 1% set to begin in July, with a 2.5% increase in 2012. But a Wisconsin arbitrator ruled in favor of UF, agreeing a larger increase is necessary to keep up with inflation.

Union president Cathy DeSoto believes this decision is a huge boost for employee morale, and, on a larger scale, may impact the ongoing debate over collective bargaining.

On the other hand, the University representative, Virginia Arthur, understands why employees would want higher salaries, but the college is facing major funding cuts, and will now have to figure out where this additional money will come from.

After months of debate, UNI and UF could not come to an agreement on four topics, the two big ones: pay and benefits. Which is why they left it in the hands of a third party.

"When you go to collective bargaining, this is a time when opinions and statements do not matter as much as cold hard facts," said DeSoto. "And it's correct for the faculty to care about it, to have a say at the table about where the money is being spent."

The decision tips in favor of the union. The arbitrator ruled UF members are making less money than their peers, and should receive a 3.5% raise.

As for benefits -- he agreed with UNI. Current employees can keep their existing package, but new employees will move to a PPO and HMO plan. Arthur believes this is in the best interest of all employees.

"Now faculty members will have a choice in health care plans, I think this will make them better consumers of health care," she said.

This will mean tough decisions for the university. State funding cuts could amount to more than $7 million next year. Now they'll have to find another $1.6 million for increased employee pay.

"Part of the things we may have to look at are, whether we're going to have to increase class sizes, cut back on some class offerings," said Arthur.

Students may feel the financial impact in the fall, but DeSoto believes this will have a positive impact in the classroom.

"For faculty moral, for retention, for recruitment, it's important that the faculty are making a salary that is somewhat competitive," said DeSoto.

As for the other two contested points, the arbitrator ruled that employees can file grievances through UF, as opposed to filing as an individual. This protects the employee's identity and position at the university.

He ruled against the union on the fourth issue -- saying faculty should not be able to take paid time off work for union business.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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