SIU faculty calls for federal mediator in pay dispute

Saturday, October 5, 2002

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Students, parents and fans attending this weekend's homecoming events at Southern Illinois University may notice professors distributing leaflets suggesting the school is funding a "bloated administration" over education.

Members of the school's faculty union will distribute the orange flyers today during the homecoming parade and home football game, professor Morteza Daneshdoost, president of the group, said Friday.

The union, which represents the campus' 688 faculty members, also called for a federal mediator to help settle contract talks that recently stalled over salaries.

The university will likely accept a federal mediator, said Worthen Hunsaker, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and lead negotiator.

School officials rejected the union's demand for a 21-percent raise in salary and benefits over three years, calling it unreasonable considering the state's current financial problems.

The Carbondale campus laid off 30 nonacademic employees last year, cut summer courses and made other reductions to comply with about $7 million in cuts brought on by the state's budget crunch.

In addition, the campus is starting the current school year with about $10 million less than it started last year, school officials have said.

On Thursday, university negotiators said they would not issue a counter salary proposal until the state's budget situation becomes more clear.

"We have to fund whatever we agree to," Hunsaker said.

University officials determined it would be better to wait until they have a clearer picture of the fiscal situation before issuing a counter offer, he said.

That angered union negotiators, who contend their salaries are far behind their counterparts' at peer universities. They also say administrative costs at the Carbondale campus exceed those of other Illinois universities, so the state's budget problems don't have to determine what the school pays its faculty.

Daneshdoost said he hopes an agreement is reached before Halloween, when news from Carbondale has in past years focused on out-of-control street parties.

"We want there to be some good news coming out of Carbondale at Halloween for at change," he said.

More talks are scheduled for later this month.

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