At least $2.2 million set aside for faculty salary increases

Portland State administrators have now agreed to spend more than $2 million on faculty salary raises as of Wednesday’s bargaining session with PSU’s full-time faculty union.

Portland State administrators have now agreed to spend more than $2 million on faculty salary raises as of Wednesday’s bargaining session with PSU’s full-time faculty union.

The administration’s most recent proposal to the union would give some teachers a 9.44 percent salary increase during the 2007-09 biennium, which would cost more than the $2.2 million the legislature designated for PSU salary increases over those two years, said Roy Koch, Portland State’s provost. The Oregon legislature set aside $10 million for the seven Oregon schools to use on raising faculty salaries this year and next year, and Koch said PSU’s portion of that pot is about $2.2 million.

A reserved pool of money from PSU funds would absorb the costs that spill over the $2.2 million, Koch said. The reserve pool is made up of tuition dollars from increased enrollment in recent years and of PSU’s portion of $125 million that was designated by the legislature for raises for all Oregon public employees.

How much money is in the pool remains unclear. Koch would not say how much PSU will spend from the reserve because it could affect negotiations between the PSU administration and the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, PSU’s full-time faculty union.

Negotiations continue

Heated negotiations over faculty salary increases for 2007-08 and 2008-09 have been ongoing since April. Earlier this month, the negotiations entered a state of mediation, the first of many steps that could potentially lead to a faculty strike. At mediations, faculty and administrators sit in separate rooms, while a mediator walks back and forth describing arguments and offers.

The faculty union’s Web site shows that as of Jan. 22, the union had requested an 11 percent raise for all faculty for 2007-09.

The university does not want to see a strike happen and it will keep in mind the best options for students said Carol Mack, chief negotiator for the administration and PSU vice provost for academic administration and planning.

“We were just so far apart on our dollar amounts for salaries,” Mack said about having entered mediation.

Pay raise plans

Assuming that faculty and administration reach an agreement, Koch said faculty would be given raises based on three things. First, the faculty who have historically been the most underpaid–those who have been around the university the longest, having experienced times when pay raises were little or did not happen at all–will see the largest salary increases.

“The people who have been here the longest have suffered the most,” he said, adding that often times newly hired faculty are given higher initial salaries than those who have been at the university longer–an occurrence called salary compression–because of recent pay raise droughts.

Next, Koch said the administration would base raises on making salaries equitable to the cost of living. Koch said this complicates the discussion because Oregon gives more benefits to faculty than schools in other states by providing state employees with full health coverage and other benefits.

Portland State has to pay for the cost of the benefits of every employee. If a professor is paid $50,000, PSU has to pay close to $26,000 in benefits, Koch said.

Finally, he said the administration would develop a system where people are given raises or bonuses based on performance or research developments. Koch said that PSU’s best faculty are usually among the number who leave the university each year, usually for higher paying jobs.

This final part would set up a system to give faculty, who Koch called “the most productive,” raises or bonuses as they gain national recognition by publishing papers and continuing research.

“The proposal is that there will be different raises for different people,” Koch said. “Everyone will move up. Some will move up significantly.”

These raises will only affect the full-time faculty, from full-professors to instructors. It will not affect adjunct or fixed-term faculty, whose union declared yesterday that they will also enter mediation with the university because the groups have been unable to reach an agreement.

Koch said members of the fixed-term faculty union, called the PSU Faculty Association, will receive across-the-board increases, but would not say how much.

The state legislature set aside $6.86 million for the seven Oregon universities to reduce student to faculty ratios. PSU announced last week that most of its portion, about $1 million out of $1.5 million total, will be used to pay for 21 new tenured faculty positions.

The administration will hold national searches to fill the new hires.

Gary Brodowicz, the president of the PSU faculty union, checked into yesterday’s mediation in the late afternoon and said it seemed as if little was accomplished.

“I got a sense from our team that it was a big waste of time early on,” he said.