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Topic: Gen'l Interest: Judge: SIU Carbondale to repay employees for 2011 furloughs
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Gen'l Interest: Judge: SIU Carbondale to repay employees for 2011 furloughs
Posted: Aug 5, 2014 12:28 PM
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From The Southern Illinoisan, Tuesday, August 5,
2014. See
Judge: SIU Carbondale to repay employees for 2011 furloughs

By Molly Parker

Southern Illinois University Carbondale owes
roughly 1,500 current and former employees about
$1.9 million in back wages to cover four furlough
days employees were forced to take in 2011.

In her July ruling, Judge Colleen Harvey, an
administrative law judge with the Illinois
Education Labor Relations Board, found that the
former administration at SIU illegally pushed "to
the point of impasse" three unions affiliated
with the Illinois Education Association that
represent employees at the university.

The affected SIU unions are: the Association of
Civil-Service Employees, the SIU Faculty
Association; and the Non-Tenure Track Faculty

"This decision represents a victory not only for
the unions that filed the unfair labor practice
charge and the employees they represent, but also
for the principles and practice of good faith
collective bargaining," said Faculty Association
President Rachel Stocking. Her union represents
about 600 tenure-track faculty members.

Union representatives noted that in the ruling,
Judge Harvey also stated that the SIU
administration at that time "demonstrated that it
lacked an open mind and a sincere desire to reach
an agreement."

In a statement, SIU said it is "currently
considering its legal options, which include a
review of the (judge's) recommendations by the
full (board). Following a decision by the full
(board), either party may still appeal to the
Illinois courts."

"The university respectfully disagrees with the
(judge's) recommendations, as the university
believes they do not reflect the extensive nature
of bargaining and did not adequately consider the
university's extremely difficult budget
situation," the statement continued.

The main administrative players at the bargaining
table in 2010-2011 are no longer in those roles
as SIU has ushered in a new president, chancellor
and provost.

The recession-era decision by the then-SIU
administration to furlough employees in the face
of severe state budget problems further
aggravated contract negotiations that were
ongoing that year. The SIUC Faculty Association
members went on a six-day strike in November
2011, while the other three unions were able to
reach an agreement with university administrators
to avoid walk outs.

Representatives of the respective unions said
they hope this ruling sends a clear message to
the current SIU administration as collective
bargaining begins again in earnest this fall.

Jim Wall, president of the union that represents
more than 600 non-tenure track full- and
part-time faculty, said it's time to "put the
past behind us."

"These are people that really like what they do,"
he said of union members. "These are
professionals that get up in the morning and
really look forward to going in and doing their
teaching. This isn't a bunch of disgruntled auto
workers in the stereotypical union situation."

Wall acknowledged that there are people who do
not agree with white-collar professionals having
collective representation, but the rules should
be followed for the process that is in place, he

"An entity, the university, cannot simply impose
terms and conditions without negotiating," he
said. "The university broke the law."

Wall said that for him it wasn't so much that
employees were furloughed, as the manner in which
the university went about enforcing the unpaid
time off without accepting alternative
suggestions from the unions' representatives.

Throughout that time period in the nation, it was
commonplace for companies and governments at all
levels to require employees to take unpaid time
off to shore up budgets during the Great
Recession and in its wake.

"That (the furloughs) wasn't the problem," he
said. "The problem was they didn't work with
these groups in good faith to try to find a
solution Š Our honest hope in all sincerity is
that these types of things would stop."

Ami Ruffing, whose civil service union represents
some 400 secretaries, office managers,
technicians and others in similar roles on
campus, said that during bargaining of 2011,
administration members "shouted at us," "cursed
at us" and "really treated us with contempt."

She said employees represented by that union are
the lowest paid on campus, making $25,000 or
less. Some people qualified for food stamps after
the salary cuts, she said.

Moving forward, Stocking said she's hoping for
"much more positive understanding of how the
different interests can be mutually addressed in
a beneficial way instead of banging heads and
disagreeing about everything."

In its statement, the university also said that
as higher education continues to face new
challenges, including financial constraints, "we
remain committed to our partnership with all
unions to find appropriate solutions that serve
the good of our students and the entire
university community."
SIDEBAR PHOTO: Faculty Association members and
supporters picket Nov. 4, 2011, at the corner of
Oakland Avenue and Chautauqua Road in Carbondale.
A judge ruled that SIU must reimburse employees
for 2011 furloughs, which was a contributing
factor in a breakdown of negotiations between
unions and the university.
618-351-5079 ---

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