Union reaches some agreements with Pitt, but laments slow progress


In two meetings with University administration held in June, the Union of Pitt Faculty’s bargaining committee reached tentative agreement on two articles, but in a recent update to faculty expressed frustration with the meeting schedule and what it calls the administration’s reluctance to agree “even to simple articles.”

“We are finally making progress, although it is still much slower than we want,” the statement from July 5 reads. “We’d like to meet with the administration more frequently so that we can make faster progress, but they have only agreed to meet twice in the next month. This pace of bargaining and the administration’s reluctance to agree even to simple articles indicates that we’ll need your support to get wins on tougher proposals around job security and pay as bargaining continues.”

In a statement shared with University Times, the Pitt administration said it “continues to negotiate in good faith and is working toward an agreement that reflects our shared goals. We remain focused on maintaining productive conversations at the bargaining table.”

The update from the union offered summaries of bargaining topics, including the status of the Falk School in the fledgling union’s contract as well as counterproposals, tentative agreements and next steps. Here is a breakdown of what the union shared with the faculty on its website and newsletter:

Falk School: The committee said the administration “appears” to have backed off from efforts to exclude the laboratory K-8 school faculty from the union contract and is no longer demanding that every article in the contract include language excluding the school. An exclusion of the school was dropped in the most recent counterproposal on who the contract covers. “They may still seek to treat different groups of faculty differently in parts of the contract, but for now we are hopeful that we have resolved their effort to completely exclude one group of our colleagues,” the committee said.

Counterproposals: In written counterproposals on issues of academic freedom and intellectual property, the administration said it should be able to rewrite the policies “unilaterally” during the contract term — a provision the committee called “obviously not acceptable.”

Despite frustration with the administration’s opening positions, it conceded that “this is, at least, actually bargaining.”

Separability: The administration accepted the committee’s “separability” proposal, defined as “a standard contract provision” saying if one part of the contract is determined to be illegal, the rest of the contract will effectively continue. The committee also agreed to an article on “labor-management meetings,” which says once the committee has a contract, the two sides will continue to meet regularly.

“This is progress, and we’re happy to be moving forward,” the committee said in the statement, “but we remain frustrated that it has taken three months for the administration to agree to the most basic contract terms.”

When tentative agreements are reached on a full set of articles, Pitt faculty union members will be able to read and vote on the contract, which will only go into effect if the full membership votes to ratify it, the statement read.

Bargaining schedule: The administration agreed to only two of 10 additional meetings the committee proposed in June and July, the committee said, adding it will continue to “push them to meet more frequently so that we can make more progress.”

Moving forward: The union has proposals on the table on topics such academic freedom; health and safety; grievance and arbitration; discipline and discharge; non-discrimination; facilities and support; faculty governance; and intellectual property, which the committee said it will continue discussing with the administration at its next meeting.

Click here for more information on the faculty union negotiation process.

Shannon O. Wells is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at shannonw@pitt.edu.


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