The entrance of the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau as seen on May 25, 2022. (Lisa Phu / Alaska Beacon)

The entrance of the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau as seen on May 25, 2022. (Lisa Phu / Alaska Beacon)

University of Alaska faculty union ratifies contract

United Academics certified the ratification vote results Monday.

The University of Alaska faculty union membership has ratified a tentative contract agreement with the University of Alaska administration. United Academics certified the ratification vote results Monday.

The two parties reached the tentative contract agreement at the end of October, ending 14 months of negotiations. The sometimes contentious process resulted in both parties filing unfair labor practice complaints, which are still ongoing.

The union membership ratification is another step in the process toward implementing the contract. The Board of Regents approved the tentative contract during its November meeting. The final step is approval from the Alaska Department of Administration.

The tentative agreement includes faculty salary increases of 3%, 2.75% and 2.5% over three years, which are slightly higher than the administration’s original “best and final offer” of 3%, 2.5% and 2%. The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2022. To provide back pay for the salary increase, the university will request it as a supplemental budget item in the coming legislative session. The overall compensation increases will be included in the university’s budget request submitted to the Legislature for funding approval.

“Salary increases do rely on legislative appropriation and the Governor’s signature on the budget,” said Robbie Graham, University of Alaska associate vice president of public affairs, speaking on behalf of the administration in an email.

Faculty union President Abel Bult-Ito has “no doubt” that the legislature will fund it. He said ratifying the contract “provides some stability for the next couple of years” and shows “the unity of the union.”

About 50% of the union’s 677 eligible voters – or 344 members – voted. Of those, 324, or 94%, voted to approve the tentative agreement. Normally, only 30 to 40% of the membership votes, said Bult-Ito. But he thinks having part of the negotiation process open to the union members through Zoom increased interest. “Of course, we would like to see everyone vote but, you know, over 50% is a good deal,” he said.

Bult-Ito said the relationship between the union and administration is “still very strained but hopefully agreeing to the contract takes the pressure off a bit and improves it.”

During the lengthy negotiation process, both the union and the administration filed unfair labor practice complaints with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency – the union in August and the administration in September. The state agency is still collecting briefings for both complaints.

The two parties are due to be back at the negotiation table in August 2024.

• Lisa Phu covers justice, education, and culture for the Alaska Beacon. Previously, she spent eight years as an award-winning journalist, reporting for the Juneau Empire, KTOO Public Media, KSTK, and Wrangell Sentinel. This article originally appeared online at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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