May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Board of Regents authorizes President Pitney to implement ‘best and final offer’, ask legislators for faculty pay raise  

In a unanimous vote this morning, the Board of Regents took the unprecedented action of authorizing President Pat Pitney to implement the administration’s ‘best and final offer’ with United Academics [UNAC], the faculty union. The action follows deadlocked negotiations and an unsuccessful effort to reach agreement in federal mediation, resulting in impasse. The board action came during a special meeting of the board, on Pitney’s recommendation. 

"With negotiations at impasse, UA is focused on the goal of securing salary and benefit increases for our faculty. Implementation provides the only chance we have of securing legislative appropriation this session," Pitney said. "The university cannot provide salary and benefit increases to any union member without the legislature including the monetary terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the budget as required by law.”

“While the legislature may not include the monetary terms in the budget, this is our only chance to try to provide raises this July,” Pitney said. “I firmly believe that the vast majority of UA’s faculty members are focused on the success of their students, programs, and research, and will understand action aimed at providing fiscal stability for the first-time in five years. Although the raises are modest, they are fundable and would be available in July if appropriated, versus waiting another full year.”  

The administration’s ‘best and final offer’ provides for modest regular increases of 3%, 2.5%, and 2%, respectively for FY23, FY24, FY25, plus an adjustment to the pension wage base that requires an additional contribution of $765/person per year. This is above the 2% annual increases originally planned and above the comfort level of some Board of Regents members.

The union’s compensation position, by contrast, would cost more than $70M, more than four times UA’s offer, and was viewed by the board as unsustainable. For context, if unfunded, as was likely, this would have rivaled the cuts UA experienced over the last three years.

UA accepted a large number of UNAC's proposed contractual changes that UNAC said were important to its membership. UA also gave up several important changes it sought including: consideration of furloughs in-lieu of program reductions and eliminations, and automatic consequences for a second unsatisfactory post-tenure review. As a result, there will be few if any changes in day-to-day operations.

Beyond the disagreement on monetary terms, Pitney said there were several issues where there was no agreement. “The union sought changes that would hurt UA’s research institutes that we could not accept,” she said. These include: 

  • changing the nature of postdoc and visiting faculty workloads and compensation 
  • not allowing faculty to have a full research workload 
  • requiring multi-year contracts for term faculty regardless of funding availability. 

“The research enterprise is a dynamic operation with little state funding support,” Pitney said. “The union’s request would severely hamper our highly successful research institutes’ ability to operate effectively. These same provisions would also hurt the community college and technical programs that must be dynamic and relevant.”

“Simply continuing to negotiate under these circumstances was not a good option,” Pitney said. “Implementation is necessary now to seek a modest but predictable compensation increase for faculty, which they have not had for 5 years.” 

“We value our faculty and have taken this extraordinary step to do what we can to improve compensation while ensuring a stable working and learning environment,” Pitney said.

The Board of Regents is an 11-member volunteer board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Legislature. Members serve an 8-year term, with the exception of the student regent who is nominated from his/her campus and serves a 2-year term. The board was established through the Constitution and is responsible for University of Alaska policy and management through the university president.

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