The Western Illinois University chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois believes WIU's administration is overstepping its authority by directly surveying employees about potential cost-cutting options.
Bill Thompson, UPI@WIU President, said the administration released the list of options Friday in the form of a flow chart. He acknowledged WIU must address financial issues, given the state’s declining support for higher education during the past decade.
“But that discussion needs to be done in a lawful and appropriate manner,” Thompson said. He said it’s up to UPI to talk to its members and then represent those interests at the bargaining table. He said the administration should not interfere with that representation.
“People (might) begin to believe that these are the only options, and then people begin to bargain, as it were, among themselves and with management who ask questions like, ‘Which do you prefer?’” Thompson said.
“(Then) people begin to coalesce around options that they think are less frightening or terrible. So that’s one way that the list bargains with our members. And management gets all kinds of information directly from our members, which then they represent back to us, conceivably at the bargaining table.”
The union is filing a grievance and an unfair labor practices complaint against WIU, though its leadership hoped the disagreement can be resolved quickly.
“We are ready to engage with the administration and to respond constructively to ideas. And if the administration actually begins cuts, we believe there are responsible and humane ways to go about it,” said Hunter Dunlap, who’s on the UPI Executive Committee and the Bargaining Team.
“We want to be there to defend our members’ interest and to be there to support our employees.”
Thompson concurred, adding, “I hope we can get past this. Given the people that are across the table, I’m confident that they will see the error that they committed and we’ll just go forward.”
Thompson and Hunter both said they want the administration to bargain in good faith.
When contacted by Tri States Public Radio for a comment, the University administration replied with a written statement from Provost Kathy Neumann:
“According to the UPI Contract Agreement, Article 1.7: Nothing contained in this Agreement shall prevent the Board or its members, officials, agents, or representatives from meeting with any individual or organization to hear views on any matter. This Agreement shall not be changed as a result of any such meeting except by mutual agreement of the Board and the Union.
“The information that has been provided, and discussed, does not pertain to bargaining. We acknowledge that details within the contract agreement will have to be bargained. We are not circumventing the bargaining process. We are working together with the University's various constituency groups to make the best decisions possible for Western and to be transparent during the decision-making process.
“The WIU administration has a history of openness and transparency in working with faculty and staff. As we deal with the challenges associated with the budget situation, it is essential that we engage in discussions with our campus constituency groups. It is our hope that the UPI will support us in maintaining this culture of collaboration.”