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On the picket line

March 31, 2006 | Page 11

University of Vermont
By Nancy Welch, delegate, UVM United Academics | March 31, 2006 | Page 11

BURLINGTON, Vt.--After more than 150 hours at the bargaining table, part-time faculty at the University of Vermont (UVM) have reached an agreement with the administration that includes a wage increase for the first time since 2001.

If the agreement is ratified, 135 part-time faculty members will receive salary increases of 21.5 percent over the contract's four years. The agreement also establishes three seniority tiers and a professional development fund of $15,000 per year for conference travel and workshop fees. For the first time, part-time faculty are also guaranteed basic resources such as office space and photocopying.

"When I first started teaching at UVM, I was not given any place to meet with my students? said Michele Patenaude, English department lecturer and lead negotiator for the part-time faculty. "I was told that if I needed photocopies, I could go to Kinkos."

While the agreement offers measurable gains, it is not perfect, according to Patenaude. The administration refused to extend to part-time faculty the same comprehensive health plan that covers all full-time faculty and staff.

Instead, the university will provide up to $1,000 for health savings accounts--or force part-timers to foot the bill for a high-deductible plan. Premiums will cost faculty between $4,800 and $12,000 a year with deductibles ranging from $1,500 to $5,000. "Few if any part-time faculty will be able to afford these plans," said Patenaude.

United Academics will also seek to negotiate subsequent full-time and part-time contracts together. Full-time faculty ratified their second contract in December while the part-time team remained at the table with the major issues of health care and wages still unresolved.

What pushed the administration toward finally giving the part-time faculty a real raise, said negotiating team members, was both the tenacity of the team at the table and strong support, including a spirited pep rally in the administration building, that involved students, faculty and community members.

"[This contract] is an accomplishment for hard-working, sorely exploited 'contingent faculty' who now carry 40 percent or more of the teaching load in the realm of higher education," said history lecturer and negotiating team member Jay Moore. "Our win, I hope, will encourage more organizing efforts."

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