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Strike Ends at SIU’s Carbondale Campus

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SIUC

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Dozens of tenured educators and those on track to become so returned to their classrooms Thursday at Southern Illinois University, a day after making enough progress in contract talks to call off their six-day strike at the 20,000-student Carbondale campus.

The SIUC Faculty Association union and the university’s chancellor, Rita Cheng, announced separately late Wednesday that the two sides reached verbal agreement on many of the once-thorny contract issues, though a formal deal still had yet to be put on paper. Terms were not disclosed, and Cheng suggested on the university’s Facebook page that the final document may be drawn up “over the next couple of days.”

The deal still would require a ratification vote by the university’s trustees and the faculty association.

Three other Illinois Education Association-affiliated bargaining units representing non-tenure track faculty, graduate assistants and civil service staffers managed to reach strike-averting tentative deals on the eve of the walkout Nov. 3, though terms of those contracts also have not been made public.

Dave Johnson, a Faculty Association spokesman, called the strike necessary in the bargaining unit’s quest for what it called openness from the university over any future need for possible job cuts or furloughs, specifically seeking proof that such action would be fiscally imperative.

“This new proposal represents a marked improvement over where we were just a few days ago, before the strike began,” Johnson said in announcing the walkout’s end, insisting the “resolve and determination by faculty on strike were essential to making this progress.”

The verbal agreement “improves shared governance on this campus,” preserves the tenure system there and “strengthens transparency and accountability in ways that will help ensure that academic values remain paramount, while allowing the administration adequate flexibility to deal with any future financial crisis,” Johnson said.

“All these things will protect quality education at SIUC for years to come,” he added. “We’ve got a few remaining issues to iron out and some things that need to be clarified, but we’re confident that we’re going to end up with a tentative agreement for our members to vote on.”

Cheng, in her Facebook posting, pressed the university’s populace to mend from the nearly weeklong walkout, during which many students joined in on the picket lines and the Faculty Association frayed, with many of its members forming a splinter group and ignoring the strike out of displeasure about the union’s bargaining tactics.

“I look forward to all members of the university community working together in the best interests of our students,” Cheng wrote. “I urge everyone to set aside the emotions of the past week and come together in a spirit of collaboration. Moving forward, I anticipate working with the Faculty Association to advance our institutional goals.”

The walkout culminated a labor dispute dating to at least April of last year, when bargaining got under way in advance of the contracts that lapsed that following July. The unions signed off on a possible strike in late September and early last month.

Johnson has insisted the walkout wasn’t motivated by salary issues, saying the union turned down the administration’s offer of pay increases totaling 4 percent over four years when it learned such raises would require sizable increases in tuition. Instead, he said, the union proposed receiving raises only if the university’s overall revenues increased.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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