Vermont Business Magazine An independent fact-finder will begin hearing evidence from The University of Vermont and its faculty union, United Academics, this morning. As part of the process, both parties will present evidence and data to the independent fact-finder, who will make a recommendation at a later time regarding the single open issue, which is to determine the level of an appropriate salary increase. There may be a need for a second fact-finding session in March. UVM and United Academics declared impasse in negotiations on September 12, and attempts at mediation were unsuccessful.
“The University will continue to seek a fair and reasonable settlement of the contract with United Academics, as it has with its other unions – one that honors our University’s commitment to students and their families by providing a high quality educational experience that is financially accessible and affordable, while also respecting UVM’s commitment to providing competitive salary and benefits,” said Wanda Heading-Grant, vice president for Human Resources, Diversity and Multi-Cultural Affairs.
The University will present the following information:
- UVM faculty are a highly valued resource at UVM who deserve to be well compensated. Over time, the University has made continuing efforts in this regard, consistent with fiscal realities. For example, UVM salaries (for nine-month, non-medical) faculty, based on recognized national survey data, are above the average for all other institutions in the same “Public Research Higher” classification into which UVM falls: Professor, $123,619; Associate Professor, $92,838; Assistant Professor, $78,424; other faculty, $60,031.
- The University offers its faculty a comprehensive and substantial benefits program that includes extensive and progressively affordable, salary-based health and dental insurance; a 10-percent employer contribution to retirement plans; and free tuition for dependents.
- Every percent increase in salaries for faculty adds approximately $900,000 of additional expenditures and costs to the base budget year after year.
- In considering higher pay increases, the University has to consider the fact that student tuition accounts for 73 percent of general fund revenue. The state appropriation, which is among the smallest in the nation, funds only 3 percent of UVM’s total operating budget after netting out the portion dedicated to financial aid. Mindful of our obligation to students and families to keep tuition increases low, the University has remained concerned in these negotiations that significant increases to faculty payroll may have to involve significant further tuition increases and/or substantial cuts to academic units and programs, potentially impacting faculty and other employees directly. In short, most of the money to fund employee salary increases comes from new tuition revenue. Among public universities, UVM already has the third highest non-resident tuition in the nation, and the 6th highest resident tuition. As UVM competes for high quality students in a shrinking demographic market, the University must try its best to keep tuition increases as low as possible in order to remain affordable and competitive.
- Importantly, all other employee groups across the University, including employees represented by UVM’s two other unions, have a salary increase of 2 percent for the current fiscal year. United Electrical and the Teamsters both agreed to three consecutive years of 2 percent salary increases.
- Although the union has sometimes offered a claim that a reduction in the size of the administration is the solution to the University’s budget challenges, the fact is that the size of UVM’s management and executive team is well below national norms for the ratio between administration and student enrollment. Public Research Higher universities average 13.4 management/executive staff per 1000 students, while UVM is at 7.9.
- The union also argues that the University’s Strategic Investment Fund is a potential source of funding for salary increases. This modestly sized fund, compared to similar funds at other institutions, has just under $6 million this year. It allows the University to make one-time strategic investments in academic priorities that benefit UVM’s overall advancement and competitive position. One-time dollars cannot be spent on salary increases, which are continuing financial obligations. The majority of the fund is directed to academic units and programs. For instance, the fund was used to build a high-tech classroom as the Grossman School of Business revamped its MBA program. This year its Sustainable Innovation MBA program became the top-ranked green MBA in the country by The Princeton Review. In Arts and Sciences, the Strategic Investment Fund has provided more than $5 million in faculty startup packages and lab renovations, as well as substantial support for adding the General Education writing requirement.
The University administration said its position is two-fold. First, the 2 percent salary increase the University has offered is fair: It is fair as compared to all other employees on campus, and it is fair as compared to faculty at public research universities nationwide. Second, any salary increase above 2 percent, which must be funded with recurring dollars, will require an additional tuition increase and/or cuts to academic units and programs, potentially impacting faculty and other employees.
For additional detail on some of these data points, please read this Frequently Asked Questions document: http://www.uvm.edu/hrs/ContractNegotiationsBetweenUVMandUnitedAcademics.pdf
For its part, the UVM United Academics union has kept up its own drumbeat on its Facebook page, which includes this post from December:
"They (UVM administration) falsely claim that cost-of-living raises will increase tuition. They disingenuously insist that they don't have the money. But we know they regularly spend money on things like brand consultants ($1.6 million) and bridges to the library ($3 million), any of which could easily offset the cost of our healthcare increases (with a lot of money left over). There are many more examples of skewed priorities and the shortchanging of academics at UVM. Let's put the pressure on. Now is the time to show them that we expect a fair contract. Our paychecks are about to be smaller as of January 1 because the administration refuses to negotiate a fair contract."
Source: UVM, 2.12.2018. United Academics. Photo: UA Facebook