Strike Settled, Oakland U. Professors Return to the Classroom

September 10, 2009

Professors at Oakland University are back in front of their classrooms, after round-the-clock negotiations between faculty members and the Michigan institution resulted in agreement on a tentative three-year contract early this morning.

Faculty members at the college had been on strike since last Thursday, the first day of the fall semester. The agreement came about after a judge ordered the faculty union and Oakland administrators to return to the bargaining table or face a hearing in which the university sought an injunction forcing faculty members to go back to work.

A written statement issued by the Oakland University chapter of the American Association of University Professors said the new contract resolved sticking points in negotiations that began in May. The union said the contract, which faces a ratification vote before it becomes official, preserves faculty governance at the 18,000-student institution, limits the use of full-time professors who aren't on the tenure track, protects faculty members' intellectual property, and includes a choice of the current health-care plan or an alternative backed by the university.

In addition, the union agreed that its members would skip raises this year and receive raises of 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in the subsequent two years. Professors must also give up two days of pay.

"We believe that the university was not bargaining in good faith, and we appreciate the work of the judge to bring this to closure," said Lizabeth Barclay, grievance officer and spokeswoman for the 600-member union, in an e-mail message. "Our members have been very supportive in what has been the longest work-stoppage protest in quite a while."

The university's senior vice president and provost, Virinder Moudgil, welcomed students back in a statement posted on its Web site about two and half hours before classes were scheduled to start, at 7:30 a.m.

"We are extremely pleased to have found common ground on the issues that had been standing in the way of an agreement," Mr. Moudgil said.

Although the strike is over, the contract is far from a done deal. Ms. Barclay said the union's bylaws require that members receive advance notice of meetings to discuss the terms of an agreement and then a week to study it. A vote could take place by the end of the month, she said.