UVM’s faculty union secures salary and other protections after months of negotiation


Mary McLellan/The Vermont Cynic

The Waterman building located on the corner of South Prospect Street and College Street stands with nobody around it, Sept. 30. Waterman is the largest academic building on campus.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. May 15.

UVM’s faculty union has successfully protected the salaries and benefits of UVM employees after a long fight against the University’s cost-saving “schemes.”

In a May 10 press release, the faculty union, United Academics, announced the ratification of a four year contract that concludes a 14 month negotiation with UVM administration beginning in February 2020. 

The UA Union is made up of over 800 faculty members from various UVM departments and colleges, according to the press release.

This contract secures a 5.5% salary raise for faculty over the next three years and protects the faculty’s base pay, the press release stated.

In addition, the contract preserves employee benefits, increases funding for professional development, protects intellectual property rights, increases commitment to diversity and inclusion and makes workload policies more transparent, according to the press release.

In a May 10 press release from the University, admin stated that they value faculty retention and simultaneously recognize a need for ongoing fiscal prudence – a need that has led UVM to reduce administrative units’ operating budgets by $11.5 million this year. 

According to UVM’s press release, administrative units have reduced their budgets in 12 of the past 13 years. The University has deliberately constrained the size of its administration, which is now one of the smallest in the nation compared to other public research universities. 

“We also have been clear about our strong commitment to students and their families to provide a high-quality educational experience that is financially accessible and affordable,” stated UVM President Suresh Garimella. 

Constraining salary increases is a necessitated expense-reduction strategy, as the University is unwilling to raise tuition costs in order to bridge budget gaps, the press release stated. Tapping into the endowment is also not an option, as it is predominantly composed of restricted funds.  

According to the UA press release, UVM’s administration had originally proposed a 10% cut to base pay salary, the elimination of retirement contributions for two years, reduced sabbatical benefits, reduced severance pay for non-renewed senior lecturers and a restriction on sick leave.

“We are confident that the strength of our union throughout collective bargaining is what prevented the administration from imposing the deep and lasting cuts to base salary and benefits,” Julie Roberts, president of United Academics stated in the UA press release. 

The Union bargaining team stated it was committed to working with the administration’s cost saving efforts, and proposed temporary salary reductions when the COVID-19 pandemic created financial uncertainty. 

This negotiation took months and reached an impasse in October. Beginning in November, the Union and administration worked with a federal mediator to create a fair compromise, according to the press release.

“Many United Academics faculty are relieved to finish negotiations after an uncertain and, for many, devastating year,” the press release stated.