Friday, March 26, 2004

Long-term academic contracts 

The University of Hawai'i and the state have settled a long labor dispute with a six-year contract, reports Jonathan Dresner at Cliopatria. The contract calls for 1% increases the first year, 3% the second and 2% in the third, but raises 5% in year 4, 9% in year 5 and 11% in year 6. Dresner is unhappy. He notes that senior faculty are now less likely to retire while they wait for the out-year windfalls. But those might not come because the state hasn't committed to paying for those raises in later years. " Turning down the air conditioning and reducing the copying budgets is only going to go so far." But his last point is most intriguing.
And, in the long run, the six-year contract is a recipe for union disintegration. It's hard enough keeping a union running and strong, much less a faculty union, even with regular biennial negotiations (and our negotiators obviously need work) to keep attention focused. What is the union going to do with itself for the next four years? When the next contract rolls around (or the promises fall flat, whichever comes first), will there be any real experience or guts left in the organization?
What animates the union here are the alphabet soup of diversity committees and a belief that the test for tenure involved a mirror and condensation when placed under the candidate's nose. Is that enough to gain broad support for the union? I don't know. I think the bigger question is: Do they care?