Strike ends as faculty return to class without an agreement

By Gus Bode

Tenured and tenure-track faculty say they will return to their classrooms today, ending a weeklong strike that disrupted classes and raised tensions across campus.

Dave Johnson, Faculty Association spokesman, said the union’s leadership voted Wednesday to end the walkout even though they had not reached a tentative contract agreement with the administration.

“It’s a big relief,” he said.

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Johnson said members of the union’s Departmental Representatives Council agreed they were close enough to an agreement with the administration that striking faculty should return to work.

He said details would not be released until union leaders had a chance to discuss them with membership.

Chancellor Rita Cheng walks out after negotiations with the Faculty Association to deliver a press release Wednesday in the Wabash and Vermillion Rooms lounge at the Student Center. Cheng announced members of the Faculty Association will not strike today while administration and union bargaining teams will continue to bargain terms of the union’s contract. The association has been negotiting terms of their contract since June 2010. PAT SUTPHIN | Daily Egyptian

“We do believe this proposal marks significant progress,” he said. “We have been able to approve transparency and accountability.”

Chancellor Rita Cheng said in an email to students, faculty and staff Wednesday final documents will be prepared during the next few days so both sides can sign an agreement.

She said the agreement will have to be approved by the SIU Board of Trustees as well as union members.

Morteza Daneshdoost, chairman of the union’s bargaining team, said they would continue bargaining in the morning, but there were only a few minor issues remaining.

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Cheng said at a press conference in the Student Center the two bargaining teams had seven issues still being negotiated Monday and have made significant progress in the last few days.

The union’s previous contract ended in June 2010.

The Faculty Association insisted throughout the dispute that salary was not the major issue, but the chancellor insisted that most of their concerns involved money.

Among other issues, the union sought pay raises linked to the university’s financial health, and more transparency and accountability in declaring financial exigency and imposing unpaid furloughs.

A federal mediator joined negotiations Sunday, and the two sides met for 27 hours without reaching a deal. Wednesday’s talks began at 9:30 a.m. with the two sides saying they had made significant progress the day before.

The Association of Civil Service Employees, the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association and Graduate Assistants United reached tentative agreements early Nov. 3, the day all four unions had set for a walkout.  That left the Faculty Association the only union on strike.

Members of the other unions, as well as many students, supported the faculty in their strike by walking picket lines and demonstrating.

Groups ranging between 200 and about 400 faculty, staff and community members marched across the campus Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday chanting, “We want fair contracts,” and “We want our teachers back.”

Cheng said at the press conference there was healing to be done between those who went on strike and those who didn’t.

“I look forward to all members of the university community working together in the best interests of our students,” she said in the email. “I urge everyone to set aside the emotions of the past week and come together in a spirit of collaboration. Moving forward, I anticipate working with the Faculty Association to advance our institutional goals.”

Tara Kulash contributed to this story.

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