University of Detroit-Mercy faculty protest as contract negotiations drag on

Aug 27, 2013

Faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy say the university is “going backward” in ongoing contract negotiations.

Some U of D professors protested at an event attended by the school’s President Monday.

The two sides have been bargaining since late last year. Just last month, the university gave notice that it may invoke a clause to “terminate or modify” the current faculty contract in late September.

Faculty union President and Associate Professor of Physics Prasad Venugopal said faculty members are “very concerned” about that possibility.

“If they terminated our contract, we could lose a number of benefits and protections that we have, such as academic freedom and tenure,” Venugopal said. “On the other hand, if they, as they claim, do not intend to do so, we do not know why they invoked the 60-day notice.”

Venugopal said the faculty is willing to accept a proposal the university put forth in April—but the administration has now withdrawn it. He said that proposal contained concessions worth more than $2 million a year.

The deadline for the university to “terminate or modify” the current faculty contract is September 24th. If that happens, the faculty could vote to strike.

Venugopal said professors hope it won’t come to that, but their protest signals they feel stifled in negotiations. He accused the school of “union-busting.”

“We felt very importantly that our voices were not being heard or respected during the bargaining process,” Venugopal said. “We have tried on numerous occasions, but we just felt that a hostile atmosphere had been created by some individuals during the bargaining.”

In a statement, the University of Detroit said only that it’s “committed to reaching a good faith agreement” with the union in ongoing negotiations,  and “looks forward to a positive outcome.”