Thursday, April 28, 2016

NTT faculty on strike at U of I

NTT faculty at the U of I are now on what they've announced as a five day strike.

The NTT union at Illinois is new (their TT are not unionized); they are affiliated with the AFT (UPI). They are trying to get something that NTT faculty here at SIUC do not have: the right to multiyear contracts after years of service. Unionized NTT faculty at UIC did successfully win this right: after five years NTT at UIC get two year contracts; after ten years they get three year contracts.

The U of I administration position seems to be that departments should be allowed to offer such long-term contracts, but they do not want to guarantee such contracts in the current budgetary situation. That position sounds reasonable at first glance, but in an acute financial crisis even faculty with multi-year contracts can be furloughed or laid off, as can tenure-track and tenured faculty. So I don't think that's much of an argument.

What granting NTT with five years of service a multiyear contract would really mean is that the university could not suddenly shift money from long-term NTT to some other priority; it needs to not have enough money to pay the NTT on multi-year contracts. And of course a two or three year contract isn't forever: if the university decides, in the absence of a financial crisis, that it wishes to have fewer NTT in one area, it can let the NTT go in a relatively timely manner. NTT positions are still more flexible than TT ones. Denying NTT faculty multiyear contracts is the way to treat all NTT, including those with decades of service, as disposable adjuncts. A two or three-year contract does not seem too much to ask for faculty who have worked at the same institution for years and even decades.

Our NTT gain "continuing status" after five years, but this does not provide much in the way of job security beyond that provided by seniority. It merely means that continuing NTT get 15 days more notice before being laid off, and that they must be laid off, rather than simply not being renewed. The "layoff" terminology is a bit more significant than it sounds, because it forces the university to admit to layoffs, rather than just treating all NTT as come & go adjuncts. And I think that "continuing status" has gained a sort of informal status as "tenure lite", that may provide a sort of protection (but also risks misleading NTT into thinking they are safer than they really are). When push comes to shove, though, continuing status won't save your job.

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