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SOU faculty contract finalized

Faculty union contract ratified last week includes COLA increase and more pay

A few weeks ago, the Southern Oregon University faculty union had declared an impasse in trying to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement with school officials, setting the stage for a “cooling off period.”

Now, SOU and the union can cool off for real because a deal has gone into effect that runs until August 2025, the university said in a news release Monday.

“We all share a deep commitment to our students,” said Susan Walsh, SOU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This agreement allows us to move forward together in service to our students and the community.”

The comments were SOU’s first since the parties announced a tentative deal at the end of last month. Details about the struggles of negotiating a new agreement became known March 22, when the Associated Professors of SOU declared a stalemate. Several days later, both parties came to the table and announced a tentative deal, which could only be effective through union ratification.

Now that an agreement is in place, Donna Lane, an SOU professor who is also the union’s president, said “it’s time to start mending the ill will and move forward.”

The contract includes a 1% guaranteed minimum raise, starting May 1, for the remainder of the current academic year to cover cost-of-living increases.

The agreement also includes guaranteed pay raises for successive academic years. Faculty will get a 2.5% salary increase next year, followed by 2% raises for the two school years after that.

In addition, there will be annual salary adjustments of up to 2% based on faculty members’ years in rank.

On the health care front, SOU will continue to pay 95% to 97% of faculty members’ medical, dental, vision and life insurance benefits.

“That’s the best contract we could have come up with,” Lane added.

Lane had said weeks ago before the contract’s ratification it would be important to conclude negotiations not long after students returned from spring break March 28.

“We’re educators first and negotiators second, so I feel that we did get everything wrapped up in time for our students not to feel any impact of that,” Lane said.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.