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Portland State University faculty will get as much as a 4.1 percent pay raise for each of the next two years under a tentative contract agreement reached with administrators Monday.
The agreement, which union members must still vote on, affects the 1,288 full-time teaching and research faculty who belong to the American Association of University Professors.
Wim Wiewel, PSU president, said he would like to see faculty – who are paid well below professors at comparable universities – get more.
"These are not just tough times, but negotiations like these are always tough because our faculty are very hard working," he said, "and I wish I could give them a bigger raise."
Mary King, an economics professor and the union's vice president for collective bargaining, called the contract disappointing because it will not compensate for inflation, losses to furlough days and wage freezes. PSU, she said, will continue to face challenges in recruiting and keeping good professors and maintaining good morale. She also objected to Gov. John Kitzhaber's 8.4 percent cap on salary increases for 2011-13.
"Although state support accounts for only 11 percent of the PSU budget," she said,"the governor is controlling faculty salaries in a way that's destructive for our universities."
The new contract, which takes effect Jan. 1, gives faculty a 3.1 percent across-the-board raise next year and another 3.1 percent raise in 2013. In addition, some faculty will qualify for a 1 percent pay raise each year – in the first for merit and in the second for merit or for equity to help bring their salaries up to levels at peer institutions. The faculty also will be required to pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums.
The contract resembles the two-year contract settled in September by Service Employees International Union Local 503, representing classified workers, and the Oregon University System. Both contracts keep total compensation increases under the governor's 8.4 percent lid.
Wiewel said the union got "the best that could be gotten," given the state's limited resources.
Salary increases must be balanced with efforts to limit tuition and class size, he said.
Striking that balance became more complicated after union leaders learned that University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere gave more than 1,100 UO faculty and administrators pay raises costing nearly $5 million last spring. That pay increase, which exceeded the limit requested by the governor and the chancellor, was one reason the State Board of Higher Education fired Lariviere last month.
Jay Kenton, OUS vice chancellor, said the UO pay increase undercut his bargaining position with SEIU, costing the university system as much as $10 million a year in raises and benefits. That contract in turn affected other contracts in the university system, including that of the PSU faculty.
During negotiations, posters went up at PSU asking why Wiewel didn't respect his faculty the way Lariviere does.
"I also respect the student's tuition," Wiewel said, "and I also respect fiscal reality."
Lariviere was able to give faculty the pay raise because the UO takes in about $100 million more a year in tuition, Wiewel said. That's largely because the UO has a larger share of out-of-state students, who pay triple what resident students pay for tuition.