State gives public employees the cold shoulder with pay freeze

Chris Hoch

Sun Star

UAF’s adjunct faculty, teaching 35 percent of credits and composing nearly half of UAF faculty according to UAF Planning, Analysis and Institutional Research (PAIR), are facing a pay freeze. The Senate Finance Committee rejected pay increases to 14 unions that their contracts stipulate as the state attempts to balance its budget amidst the oil crisis. Adjunct faculty, who are already miffed about their poor treatment at UAF, according to the United Academics (UNAC), began forming plans of action at their meeting on April 10.

Adjunct faculty discuss matters during a meeting in late November. – Travis Olsen / Sun Star

“APEA/AFT recognizes the fiscal situation of the state, but contracts must be honored. Employees must be compensated fairly for providing services.” Alaska Public Employees Association / American Federation of Teachers (APEA/AFT) President Cecily Hodges said. APEA/AFT represents the Supervisory Unit, the Confidential Employees Association, United Academics, United Academics – Adjuncts, the Alaska Higher Education Crafts and Trades Employees, Local 6070, and the University of Alaska Federation of Teachers (UAFT).

State senate finance committee members said that this would result in fewer layoffs and would save jobs by reserving more money for balancing the budget.

UNAC members discussed their situation at UAF at a meeting on April 10. One adjunct talked about not being allowed to sign her contract until the university was sure it didn’t want to cancel the class, which required that she teach the first two weeks of class unpaid. Another spoke of paying travel expenses to come to Alaska only to have her class canceled. One adjunct told of how a contract for one of her classes had never been produced, and if she hadn’t been carefully examining her financial records she wouldn’t have noticed not being paid for her teaching.

“I don’t come prepared with a syllabus on the first day of class.” Said one anonymous adjunct, citing the difficulty of preparing a syllabus and class and the regularity with which her classes are cancelled. Poor treatment of adjuncts could result in poor adjunct performance, ultimately affecting the students ability to learn.

The UNAC also expressed their dissatisfaction with the way that UAF had handled training compensation; adjuncts are supposed to be compensated at $30 per hour for training, which includes trainings such as Title IX compliance training, minor safety training, slips trips and falls training and others. According to the UNAC, adjuncts are still finding it difficult to be compensated for their training hours.

Adding the state’s unwillingness to honor the UNAC contract to their existing grievances sets the stage for potential conflict. The contract for UANC stipulates that they cannot strike, but if the state doesn’t honor the contract then there’s no guarantee that UNAC will continue to do so either.

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