NMU faculty contract negotiations at standstill

The current contract ends at the end of the month.
Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 4:53 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Northern Michigan University’s faculty union and the school’s administration are still without a contract agreement.

Now, the deadline to reach a deal is quickly approaching.

The current one-year contract signed last year ends in 19 days; at the end of the month. Right now, both sides seem far apart.

”No, we are not close to a deal right now,” said Dr. Lesley Putman, NMU Faculty Union Chief Negotiator.

Putman has been at NMU for 26 years and has been the faculty unions chief negotiator multiple times. The chemistry professor says, she has never seen a contract negotiation as contentious as this one.

NMU says it will continue to work through the issue in a timely manner. Last year, the faculty union signed a one-year contract with no pay raise expecting to receive one this year.

“A lot of our faculty are paid less than the market value,” said Putman

Data from the union and the College and University Professional Association shows 65 full-time faculty members at NMU are paid above the national average for their position while 190 are paid below.

Data from NMU faculty union and the College and University Professional Association.
Data from NMU faculty union and the College and University Professional Association.(WLUC)

“When we go (and) try to hire new faculty we offer them salaries that are too low to accept,” said Putman. “We have had a lot of failed searches.”

Because of this, the union’s biggest ask is for the university to pay closer to market value. After going back and forth in negotiations, Putman says the university pulled any market adjustment off the table on Wednesday. The union is now preparing to potentially use a meditator.

“If there’s no market (adjustment) I don’t think the pay increase can make up for that,” said Putman.

We asked NMU to answer our questions about the ongoing negotiations, but instead, it provided us with a statement.

“We look forward to continued talks concerning the topics that are on the table and moving through the negotiation process towards a mutual agreement. We will continue to work through issues, including salaries, with both the Board of Trustees and the faculty Union in a timely manner. The current contract goes through June 30, 2021.

Putman says she is unsure if that will happen before the deadline.

“This really isn’t about us being greedy, this is about us trying to provide a good education for the students,” said Putman.

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