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CMU officials, Faculty Association ratify five-year contract

Editors note: This story was updated at 11:50 a.m. on July 29 to describe the insurance the Faculty Association uses.

After countless hours spent in bargaining sessions, Central Michigan University officials and the Faculty Association have ratified a five-year collective bargaining agreement.

The new contract, which went into effect July 25, is the first contract of this duration between the two parties. It expires June 30, 2019.

Joshua Smith, president of the Faculty Association, said there is a lot of time and effort put into the bargaining process.

“(Bargaining) every three years affords us a review of how the university is doing on certain things,” he said. “You have to balance the time spent bargaining with that review. We thought we’d see how (the longer contract) goes.”

Robert Boonin, the chief bargainer for the university, said the longer contract is about predicability and stability.

“There’s enough good faith that exists now; the parties are comfortable with a longer relationship,” he said. “Both sides realized that when you have a mature relationship, there’s not a need to come together as frequently and have to deal with some of the dynamics that usually come along with bargaining.”

The newly ratified contract also includes continued contributions from the university to the health care coverage for faculty association members. Smith said the university has a set contribution rate, but the new contract allows for a bit more flexibility on the faculty members’ side of it.

“I believe we have three options available to our members,” he said. “If in five years time our members decide that they aren’t cost effective anymore, we can go to MESSA, our healthcare provider, and we can choose something cheaper.”

MESSA, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, is a third-party reseller of health insurance affiliated with the Faculty Association’s parent union, the Michigan Education Association.

Boonin said the university won’t see an increase in cost from this change in the contract.

“We’re working with the faculty to find better ways to keep their costs down,” he said. “We had to assure the university to make sure their costs wouldn’t go up.”

Another noteworthy section of the contract details the continued annual base salary increases for faculty members. This contract will increase faculty pay by between 2-2.9 percent. Smith said it is a percent increase with a lump sum added in some years.

“How that works varies for different people,” he said. “Percentages are based on an average of faculty salaries. It’s not unusual. The last contract had something similar.”

Both parties agreed this round of bargaining went more smoothly than in 2011, which resulted in multiple protestations from faculty members.

“The groups bargaining committed to a constructive process where we exchange and were sensitive to reasons,” Smith said. “When you think about how people should function at a university, giving and being sensitive to reasons, we had a result that we think is satisfactory for people.”

Boonin said getting a contract before the start of the academic year was vital to making sure all parties were happy.

“The parties came to the table with the idea that they wanted to be productive and constructive throughout the process,” he said. “We were prepared to talk and address the concerns. This resulted in a contract earlier in the summer than ever before.”

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