Members of United Academics - American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers Local 4996 gathered on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, to call on University of Alaska officials to agree to a negotiated contract. Monday, an Unfair Labor Practice complaint was filed by a representative of the University of Alaska’s faculty union against the university’s administration. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Members of United Academics - American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers Local 4996 gathered on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, to call on University of Alaska officials to agree to a negotiated contract. Monday, an Unfair Labor Practice complaint was filed by a representative of the University of Alaska’s faculty union against the university’s administration. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

UA staff union files unfair labor practice complaint

University administration accused of bad faith during year-long negotiations

An unfair labor practice complaint has been filed by a representative of the University of Alaska’s faculty union against the university’s administration “for various occurrences throughout our ongoing bargaining and mediation process,” according to a news release issued Monday afternoon.

The complaint filed with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency, an incremental step in objections to the impasse that could include a strike, means a hearing officer will investigate to determine if there is probable cause for bad faith by the university. If such is found the matter would be referred to the agency’s board, with the union also having the option to appeal to the board if the officer dismisses the complaint.

Negotiations can continue while a complaint is pending. Both sides are scheduled to meet Wednesday in yet another session in the year-long negotiations, with both sides saying significant differences remain despite reaching an agreement recently about wage increases during the next three years.

“United Academics intends to bargain in good faith,” Abel Bult-Ito, the union’s president, wrote in an email that accompanied the release. “We are intent on reaching an agreement that bargaining unit members in good standing will ratify. It takes two parties to reach a compromise.”

But the release states “the university administration has not bargained in good faith and continues to drag out the mediation process.”

Robbie Graham, a UA spokesperson, said in a prepared statement the university is reviewing the complaint.

“However, the university firmly believes that it has been bargaining in good faith from the earliest days of negotiations, and will continue to do so,” she said. “Our public statements have been factual, providing appropriate transparency about the negotiations to the university community. The university will respond to UNAC’s filing and remains committed to the mediation process with the expectation of finding common ground with the faculty union on the remaining issues.”

Both sides have been under federal mediation since April, and most recently have agreed to raises of 3%, 2.75% and 2.5% during the coming three years for the more than 1,000 employees represented by the union, although the latter two years are dependent on the consumer price index.

United Academics, on behalf of American Association of University Professors/American Federation of Teachers Local 4996, states still at issue is making its workers eligible for higher wage increases given to other employee groups, since otherwise the administration “may lowball us and give non-represented employees higher rates above our union.” Union members are also seeking more favorable terms regarding disciplinary procedures and what the union calls “protections of academic freedom.”

In addition to Wednesday’s session, three more negotiating meetings are scheduled through late September.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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