Faculty union files labor practice complaint against University of Alaska

Contract negotiations have been underway between the two parties for a year
Contract negotiations have been underway between the two parties for a year now
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Monday the United Academics union — the largest of three higher education faculty unions at the University of Alaska — filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint against the University of Alaska administration.

The complaint, filed with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency, will extend the already lengthy negotiation period between the university and the union members. Union President Abel Bult-Ito said the union didn’t come to the decision lightly, but they felt it was something that had to be done.

“We delayed filing the unfair labor practices document by several months,” Bult-Ito said. “The university gave the impression that they were actually serious about reaching a mutual agreement.”

The complaint cites a number of occurrences throughout the ongoing bargaining process including illegal implementation of a “best and final offer,” unlawful declaration of impasse, as well as bypassing the negotiation team. The move was made on the eve of the one-year mark since negotiations between the two parties began on Aug. 30, 2021.

“We really did not want to do this,” Bult-Ito said. “That is not a great thing — to ask our members to delay a contract even further — but our impression is that it may take months without a ULP to get an agreement with the university because they have been delaying, delaying, and delaying.”

In a statement released today, the University of Alaska disagreed with the claims made in the filing.

“The university is reviewing the faculty union’s filing with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency and will respond to it. However, the university firmly believes that it has been bargaining in good faith, and will continue to do so. Our public statements have been factual, and we are committed to providing appropriate transparency to the university community and the public,” the statement read. “The university is committed to the mediation process, and will continue to participate in all mediation sessions with the expectation that we will find common ground with the faculty union and reach a fair contract that benefits our faculty and the university.”

A press release on the Local 4996 website states that they feel their case is strong and their lawyers have successfully won two recent arbitrations, as well as other grievance settlements in the past year. Bult-Ito believes that if the university is able to come to a bargaining agreement, the complaint could be dropped.

“According to our filing, the university did violate state law,” Bult-Ito said. “We’re always ready and willing to negotiate and to come to a compromise, but it takes two to tango and the university has been sitting on the bench.”