Negotiations between Southern Oregon University faculty and administration, ongoing since June, are reaching the point of possible resolution — or deadlock, where mediation may be called for by one side or the other.
SOU administration declined to comment on talks, which are closed to the press, but the negotiator for the faculty, Math Professor Kemble Yates, at close of day Friday said administration had taken the position of “take these terms or we’ll ask for mediation.”
Ryan Brown, spokesman for SOU administration, emailed, “the Union representing faculty members have been negotiating since June, and are meeting … in an attempt to conclude negotiations with a fair settlement that considers SOU’s students, as well as the University's current and future financial needs.”
Yates emailed, “We got very close to settling last night (Thursday), but we did not. Today they've given us the weekend to ‘reconsider their last offer.’ But if we don't accept, then (Monday) they're going to call for mediation .... They've threatened with this call for mediation at least seven different times now, so at some point I suppose the track record says they really won't!”
“We’re pretty far apart,” said Vicki Purslow, faculty union president, in an email Wednesday.
SOU has offered faculty 7.25 percent increase in pay over the coming three years, but faculty is asking for 1 percent above that, says Yates, in an interview. In addition, faculty likes a two-year contract but administration is demanding three.
“Once again, SOU has dithered into delay. They keep telling us, ‘take these terms or we’ll ask for mediation.’” said Yates in an email late Friday. However, Yates said both sides are amicable and get closer in agreement each time they meet.
“SOU has told the faculty union they intend to call for mediation on Monday if APSOU (Associated Professors of SOU) doesn’t accept their terms. In bargaining, you do a lot of posturing.”
Such bargaining can go on a long while or as little as two weeks, he says. One side may call an impasse, which is followed by “final offers,” then a 30-day cooling off period.
“That’s when it can get dicey,” says Yates, “because the faculty can call for a strike. But I’m optimistic that we’ll settle. We’re only 1 percent apart.”
The teacher’s contract ended Aug. 31, so they are operating on an extension of the old contract until a settlement is reached.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.