Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

AFUM brings alleged contract violations to arbitration with UMS

Posted on April 27, 2015 in News
By Sam Hill

Student Senate Vice Chair Thomas Bahun holds a sign in support after some faculty members were fired by voicemail.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Student Senate Vice Chair Thomas Bahun holds a sign in support after some faculty members were fired by voicemail.
Economics professor Rachel Bouvier protests with other faculty before a BoT meeting.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
Economics professor Rachel Bouvier protests with other faculty before a BoT meeting.
President Flanagan addresses a crowd of student protesters at a board of trustees meeting in November.
Sam Hill | The Free Press
President Flanagan addresses a crowd of student protesters at a board of trustees meeting in November.

Officials from the UMaine system will go into arbitration this week with representatives from the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine over alleged contract violations that may have taken place over the past year during administrative budget cuts.

The union alleges that 11 different contract violations took place that involved at least 26 faculty members, specifically when three academic programs were eliminated by the board of trustees in September, when tenured faculty members were retrenched in October, and when two other programs were eliminated in November.

AFUM’s 50-page contract with the university has specific guidelines regarding how complaints, or “grievances,” are dealt with. If a member has an issue regarding an item included in the contract, like workload obligations or scheduling specifics, that member speaks with the AFUM council and is advised on how to follow up. If a grievance is filed, it is taken up with the dean that member reports to, continuing on to the provost, president and system-officials if the problem persists.

Susan Feiner, professor and co-president of USM’s AFUM chapter, said that complaints about the alleged contract violations have been “blown off” during every procedural step.

Now that the union has exhausted contractual procedure, the statewide grievance board has agreed to fund the case being brought before an arbitrator.

“In this case, there were so many breaches of contract,” said Feiner. “This is crucial to our validity of our collective bargaining and it’s important to prove that tenure means something in our system.”

The arbitrator will decide whether or not the UMaine system violated faculty contracts and that decision will be legally binding. The retrenchments and program eliminations could be voided.

Feiner said she thinks that if that decision were made, the negotiation aspect of it might take longer than the actual arbitration. It wouldn’t be as simple as everyone getting their jobs and programs back.

“A lot of people who were fired are looking for other jobs, have found other jobs or have said, ‘I’m being forced to retire, I guess I’ll move to Florida,’” said Feiner.

Chris Quint, the executive director of public affairs, said that in his prior experience with unions, he has seen arbitration take a matter of hours to being spread out over weeks. Feiner said hearings are scheduled to take place this Tuesday and Wednesday, with the possibility of two additional days in May due to the number of witnesses.

“There’s no way of knowing how long this will take,” said Quint.

The hearings are closed to the public and most information will be kept confidential.

“We’re confident in our case,” said Quint of the UMaine system, saying they adhered to the AFUM contract. “It’s really going to come down to arbitration though.”

  • Anonymous

    The quality of senior management over the last decade has led to a very sad and very expensive outcome.

    The price, unfortunately, is having to be paid by professors, by students, and by the public.