UF reaches deal with faculty union

The agreement still must be approved by the union members and the school's board of trustees.

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.

The University of Florida's faculty union has agreed to a new contract, after years of negotiations and recent weeks in which a last-ditch deal threatened to fall apart.

United Faculty of Florida and administration negotiators reached agreement late Monday. UF's board of trustees and union members still must approve the three-year contract, which both parties expect to happen.

"Both parties worked very hard to come to an agreement," said Paula Fussell, UF's vice president for human resources. "I think we're both very pleased."

John Biro, president of the union's UF chapter, said union members should vote in mid-February. If the agreement is approved, trustees would vote at their March meeting.

"We're very pleased that after five years or more, we do have an agreement," Biro said. "It's been a very unfortunate situation not to have one - bad for everyone concerned."

The deal improves sabbatical opportunities for faculty, he said, for the first time creating two-semester sabbaticals at full pay. The contract also includes a policy protecting intellectual freedom and strengthens domestic partner and family leave benefits, he said.

But the union conceded ground on another contentious issue - lagging faculty salaries as compared with UF's peer institutions. After a period of layoffs and other budget cuts, Fussell said there was no money to pay for an increase.

"There was no across-the-board or merit increases for any employees this year," she said.

The union represents about 1,800 faculty members in UF colleges that include education, engineering and liberal arts. The agreement ends years of often contentious debate between union leaders and the administration.

For three years, UF refused to negotiate and battled the union in court.

Negotiations resumed in November 2005 but broke down last year, leading the union to declare an impasse in September.

A special magistrate was set to hold impasse hearings last month before the union and UF reached a tentative agreement. But negotiations on the details of that agreement dragged on for four weeks and threatened to break down before concluding Monday.

"The end result was we did get to something that was acceptable to both parties," Biro said. "That's what negotiation is all about."

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com.

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