The Oregon Institute of Technology on Wednesday declared an impasse with the university’s faculty union during contract negotiations.
OIT and the union have been in negotiations for 16 months, according to the university, but OIT said only about half of the articles to be included in the union contract have been resolved.
“The lack of progress from the union is very concerning and left us with little choice but to declare an impasse so that both parties can move forward with their final offers,” Oregon Tech President Dr. Nagi Naganathan said in a statement. “Oregon Tech has not witnessed any significant movement by the faculty union in the last four mediation sessions and feels the best way to move the negotiations forward is to declare an impasse. It is our hope that such a declaration provides the union the necessary catalyst to focus on negotiations toward resolution.”
Declaring an impasse does not end negotiations, OIT said — it’s rather a means to refocus negotiations.
An impasse is followed by a 30-day “cooling-off period” during which negotiations will continue. After that period, the university can give its final offer, and the faculty union can choose to go on strike, if authorized by the majority of faculty.
The faculty union, the Oregon Tech American Association of University Professors, has proposed an estimated 20% increase in cost for salaries this year, plus additional increases over the next two years, according to OIT.
The university said those initial salary increases would cost about $2.5 million compounded yearly with an additional $250,000 in 2022 and 2023, bringing the three-year cost to about $9 million, which OIT said in a statement is “unrealistic, even in the best of times.” The university said that accepting the union proposal could lead to increased tuition prices, a university budget deficit or reductions in programming and staffing.
Kari Lundgren, OT-AAUP Secretary, noted in a message to the union Wednesday that the administration’s impasse declaration was a surprise.
“Senior administration is blatantly misrepresenting both our team’s preparation and the content of our proposals,” Lundgren wrote on behalf of the OT-AAUP Executive Committee.
The union notes the compensation proposal is based on a formula to move faculty salaries closer to the market rate, as well as to make adjustments to address internal pay inequities.
“[S]ince 2018, faculty have received no [cost of living] or market-driven salary increases,” OT-AAUP said. “In contrast, since 2018, senior administration have received an additional $2.2 million.”
The union states the approximately 158 faculty members at Oregon Tech have been “severely underpaid for years, and this proposal aims to close the gap between what our faculty earn and what our faculty peers at other institutions earn.”
OIT’s main campuses are in Klamath Falls and Wilsonville, with smaller satellites in Salem and Seattle.